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What are the benefits of a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is when you agree to plead guilty to a certain charge in exchange for a lighter sentence and/or having other charges dropped.

The downside, of course, is that pleading guilty means you are convicted of a crime. You don't get to fight the charges with a chance to win. So what are the benefits? A few of them include:

  • You get that lighter sentence: For instance, you may have been facing 20 years if you were convicted in court. The plea bargain drops it to a lesser charge that only carries a sentence of five years. You are going to jail, but you get to control how long you'll stay.
  • You get some certainty: You don't leave anything up to chance. You don't have to worry about what the jury will think. You know exactly what you're agreeing to when you do it.
  • You can sometimes get stigmatizing charges dropped: For instance, having a felony on your record can haunt you long after you get out of jail, making it hard to get a job. Your plea bargain may only force you to accept a misdemeanor.
  • Your case will move more quickly: A full trial can take time. The plea bargain speeds things up. You can work toward overcoming this hurdle and moving on with your life.

Now, every case is different. Perhaps you truly feel you can clear your name. Maybe the plea bargain doesn't give you as light of a sentence as you want. These are not for everyone, and they aren't always the best option. However, when facing charges, it is important to know all of your options and how they work.

Source: FindLaw, "Defense Plea Bargains," accessed March 16, 2018

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