Contrary to the plots of numerous legal shows on television, criminal trials are rare. In fact, only about 10% of criminal cases actually make it to trial. Most cases are "pled out," which means that the prosecution and the defense agree on a deal negotiated outside of a courtroom. If you run into legal trouble, you may want to consider a plea deal if one is offered to you.

Reasons for Plea Deals

Prosecutors and judges offer plea deals for several reasons. They often have crushing workloads, so clearing cases can certainly make their lives easier. Plea deals do guarantee that the accused will receive some punishment whether it be time behind bars, probation, or even community service. They also use plea deals to get one defendant to testify against another. U.S. prisons are overcrowded, and trials are expensive. Prosecutors and judges both have legitimate reasons for offering these deals.

Benefits for Defendants

If you are charged with a crime, you may want to consider a plea deal, providing your attorney recommends that you accept it. A plea deal generally involves the prosecution charging you with a lesser crime that involves lighter penalties, including reduced jail time. If you are innocent and want your day in court, you may certainly have it. People are fallible, however, which makes trial verdicts unpredictable. A plea deal allows you more certainty than a trial does. 

For some defendants, the cost of a trial is out of reach. The hours involved in preparing a defense and presenting it at trial add up quickly. Settling your case will save you a great deal of money. Also, you are spared the ordeal of a possibly lengthy and emotionally devastating trial.

Disadvantages of a Plea Deal

If you accept a deal, you will have a criminal record, and you may also have to do actual prison time. If you decide to go to trial, you have the possibility of walking away free and clear. All of these factors must be weighed carefully before you make a decision.

When you find yourself in legal trouble, chances are you will be offered a plea deal by the prosecution. Whether you accept the deal or not depends on several factors. If you are innocent, you may well want to go to trial. Your criminal defense attorney can advise you on your chances of success before a jury. Whatever you choose, make certain you have all the facts and the advice of a legal professional, like those at Robert E Long & Associates Ltd.