The criminal justice system in the United States is an extremely complex system, built on ever-changing and growing laws and statutes. With criminal conviction looming, many defendants and criminal defense attorneys turn to plea deals for lesser charges and sentencing.
If you are facing criminal charges in Illinois, the experienced team at Tommalieh Law is here to help you on your journey back to freedom, through plea deals or trials.
What is a Plea Deal?
A plea deal is an agreement made around what plea you will make in court, guilty or not guilty. You will be required to plead guilty, and perhaps do additional things such as testify against co-conspirators, etc, in exchange you will receive something you want. This may be lessened sentencing, assignment to a chosen prison, witness protection, etc. These deals are made between prosecutors and the attorneys of defendants. While you can argue a plea deal for yourself, if you choose to represent yourself you will have far fewer opportunities to argue for a plea deal and not as much of a leg to stand on when it comes to the experience needed to fight for a good plea bargain.
Attorneys often push very hard for a plea agreement in cases where they know their client has something to offer to the prosecutor that can make or break another case. These could be confessions told to the defendant but a cellmate, things the defendant witnessed or has proof of. You could be required to testify in another person's criminal trial, etc.
When Should You Not Take a Plea Deal?
Prosecutors will often use plea deals to avoid trials they think they might lose. Because a guilt plea counts as a conviction, even if that guilty plea is under a plea bargain, prosecutors use plea bargains as a tool to raise their conviction numbers. If you are likely to win your case in court, an experienced criminal defense lawyer will likely advise you to reject these plea bargains, as you could walk free after your trial.
When Should You Take a Plea Deal?
There can be a lot of cases during which you should accept a plea deal, and normally your attorney will advise you on whether or not to take an offered deal. In most cases, you will only be offered deals when either the persecution does not have enough evidence against you to win a trial but still wants a conviction, or if the prosecution has plenty of evidence against you, but you have information the prosecution needs in other, larger cases.
For example, if you have been arrested for drug crimes, but you know the names of larger "players" in the game, such as large dealers or distributors, you may be offered a deal in order to turn this information over to authorities. In these cases, it is often to your benefit to accept the plea deal, and either do a much smaller amount of time or be allowed in to witness protection, than to spend dozens of years behind bars.
In these cases, your criminal defense attorney must convince the prosecutors that you have evidence, without giving that evidence away to the prosecutors, that is more valuable and important than a harsh sentence on you. Your attorney will often be able to argue for a lesser offense or lesser charge in these cases.
Related Content: Differences Between a Criminal Defense Lawyer and a Public Defender
What Happens After You Accept a Plea Deal?
If you have accepted a plea deal, this plea deal will be presented to your judge by the prosecution during your plea hearing. While the plea bargaining process can take weeks or months, it only takes a single moment for the judge to decide the validity of the plea bargain and make a decision. Just because your attorney and the prosecutor have reached a mutually beneficial plea bargain, that does not mean that the judge will agree.
The judge is free to reject any plea deal that comes across their docket, though they must give reasons for the refusal. This can be both beneficial, or problematic. If the judge believes the punishment you've agreed to is too harsh, they can reject the deal, but they can also reject a generous plea bargain that they feel is too generous to the defendant.
Review Your Defense and Plea Options With Our Firm
The closer to the court date you get, the less likely you are to receive a good plea deal or even a plea agreement offer at all. If you want to avoid a criminal trial, it is important that you use all available time and legal advice to avoid that happening. Beneficial plea deals that work for both the defense and the prosecution happen every day, and there's a chance that a plea deal might work for your case.
Call Tommalieh Law today for a free consultation with a Tinley Park criminal defense lawyer, and let us help you on your journey to freedom.