The Oklahoma Policy Institute reported up to 95% of all criminal cases end in a plea agreement. While it certainly is up to you whether to take such a deal, many times, it may feel like the best choice you have.
Unfortunately, sometimes taking a plea bargain is not in your best interests. It is well worth it to recognize the potential downsides to taking a deal.
The main point of a plea bargain is for the prosecution to get you to admit guilt. To take the deal, you must admit guilt, which means there is also the possibility you could agree to say you are guilty of a crime you did not commit.
Plea bargains often involve waiving certain rights, such as the right to a trial by jury or the right to appeal the conviction, which limits your ability to prove your innocence in the future. It could also hinder the opportunity to bring attention to potential injustices or systemic issues within the legal system if you do not go to trial or have the option to challenge the prosecution.
Financial implications can also be a downside to plea bargains. While deals might lead to a reduced sentence, they usually involve fines, restitution and other financial obligations that might have been a part of your sentence if you had gone to trial. These financial burdens can have long-lasting effects on your personal and financial well-being.
A plea bargain might not always result in a substantially lighter sentence. In some cases, the offered plea might be only marginally better than what you could potentially face after a trial. This is especially true if the evidence against you is weak or if there are legal or procedural issues you could use in your defense.
Plea bargains can offer certain advantages, but you also must consider the drawbacks. Weighing all the factors carefully is important when making decisions that could have lasting impacts on your life.