If you are facing criminal charges, the prosecutor may, but doesn’t have to, offer you a plea. The prosecutor can make the plea offer immediately after an arrest or on the eve of trial. The decision whether to take the plea or go to trial rests entirely with the person charged with the crime. However, a criminal defense attorney can explain the legal risks of a trial and the consequences of taking a plea. Whether a plea is in your best interest will depend upon the facts of your case and the kind of result that you want. In some cases, not getting the death penalty is a victory, whereas in other cases victory means nothing short of total acquittal.

Why Offer a Plea

There are a few truths undergirding plea offers which you should be aware of. First, prosecutors make plea offers because they are efficient. Plea offers allow the prosecutor to conclude the case without much time spent on trial preparation or risking an acquittal. Second, both parties must be willing to consider the plea offer. The defendant must be willing to accept the plea, while the prosecutor must be able to justify the offer as adequately punishing the crime charged. The terms of the plea offer are negotiable. Finally, you limit your rights to appeal upon accepting a plea offer. You should not accept a plea offer without careful deliberation and thoughtful reflection.

People agree to plea offers for any number of reasons. The plea offer provides a certainty that trial does not. You know exactly what criminal charges you are pleading to in the plea offer. The plea offer provides this same benefit to the prosecutor. An accepted plea offer guarantees an adjudication of guilt. An experienced attorney can advise you of the legal consequences of accepting the plea offer.

On the other hand, at trial the State must prove its case against you with enough evidence to convince a jury of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. At trial, the Defense does not have to put up any evidence, the State is responsible for proving its case. Furthermore, the person charged with the crime can choose to not testify. If he chooses not to testify, that decision cannot be used to presume guilt on that person’s part. However, trials are stressful because the person charged with the crime faces losing his freedom if the jury convicts him. An experienced criminal law attorney can evaluate the strength of the State’s case against you and advise you as to how that case could play out at trial.

Pretrial Motions

Pretrial motions can address legal issues such as the constitutionality of law enforcement’s search or seizure, the sufficiency of certain evidence, or the propriety of certain witness. An experienced trial attorney can improve the foundation for a successful trial through shrewd pretrial motions. The judicious use of pretrial motions can convince a judge to exclude some or all of a prosecutor’s evidence. Successful pretrial motions can convince a judge to allow the Defense to offer evidence the prosecutor had not anticipated.

The attorney can increase the likelihood of the prosecutor making a favorable plea offer through pretrial motions.

Plea offers are made at the discretion of the prosecutor. Therefore, successful pretrial motions by the Defense can encourage prosecutor to offer a more attractive plea.

Whichever choice you make, you need a good attorney to counsel and advise you about the legal consequences.