If you are the defendant in a criminal case, your attorney may bring up the possibility of accepting a plea deal on more than one occasion. You may wonder why, if your attorney believes in your innocence, you would not take your case to trial. There are several reasons, actually.
According to FindLaw, as many as 90% of criminal cases settle via plea deals before they ever make it to trial. This is in large part because plea deals have advantages for everyone involved, which include the judge, the prosecution and you, the defendant.
Why judges like plea bargains
Judges encourage the defense and prosecution to work together to come up with plea deals for one main reason: It is convenient. When the opposing sides of a criminal case can come to a resolution on their own, it does away with the need for the judge’s intervention. This means the judge does not need to schedule a trial on an already overcrowded court docket.
Judges also like plea deals because they often prevent low-level criminals from overcrowding the jail system. The judicial system is already strapped for resources as is, and plea bargains typically do not result in jail time.
Why prosecutors like plea deals
Prosecutors like plea agreements for a handful of reasons. On the most basic level, plea deals offer the prosecution a chance to lighten its caseload. Beyond that, though, plea agreements mean a guaranteed conviction, even if the conviction is for a lesser charge.
The prosecution also likes to use plea deals to further their cases against co-defendants in criminal cases. For instance, it may offer you an attractive deal in exchange for damaging testimony against a co-conspirator who is a higher-level criminal.
Why the defense likes plea agreements
Your attorney may encourage you to accept a plea deal for one of two main reasons. The first is that a bargain affords you the opportunity to accept a more lenient sentence than one a jury may hand down following a trial. On this same note, it also means you plead to a lesser charge, which may look better on your criminal record than the original charge. Two, a plea agreement allows you to trade risk for uncertainty. If you or your lawyer do not feel confident in the outcome of your case, a plea bargain gives you at least some level of control over it.