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What You Need To Know Before Accepting a Plea Agreement

Photo of a legal pad used in preparation of a plea agreement

No one is ever required to accept a plea agreement.

If a person is in custody, an arraignment will be set quickly after the arrest, usually after one or two days. During this time, the prosecuting attorney might offer the defendant a plea agreement. This can happen as soon as the defendant first appears in court, particularly if the charges are not overly serious.

Most criminal cases are resolved through a plea agreement. However, it’s important for the defendant to know his or her rights when taking this very important decision.

Things To Consider

At one point or another, the prosecuting attorney in a criminal prosecution is highly likely to offer a plea agreement to the defendant.

Here are some things to consider before accepting a plea agreement:

Jail Time

If the plea includes any sort of jail time or prison sentence, it is important to take the time and consider how this could affect a person’s life, job, family, and other factors. It is important to reflect on all the consequences of this decision.

Waiver of Rights

It’s also important to understand that when agreeing to a plea agreement, a person’s rights are waived, such as the right to have a case decided and the right to appeal a conviction. This should be properly explained by the attorney as the judge will ask if the defendant understands and voluntarily agrees for his or her rights to be waived for the plea bargain.

Court Approval

The judge is responsible for the approval of any plea agreement. There are some cases where they might think that the punishment is too lenient. Thus, they may accept the guilty plea but not the punishment that has been agreed upon. For cases like this, a withdrawal of the plea is recommended.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Accepting a plea agreement has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s important for the defendant to consider all of these and understand which side holds more weight.

Advantages

  • Lighter sentence: Less time behind bars instead of servicing the full sentence.
  • Reduced charges: Reduced charges might result in different consequences.
  • Case is over: This allows the defendant to deal with consequences immediately instead of worrying about them while their case is still pending.

Disadvantages

  • Permanent criminal record: A permanent criminal record might lead to fewer rights and fewer opportunities.
  • Civil Liability: A person could face civil liability if he or she pleads guilty to a crime, especially if someone was hurt or there was property damage.
  • No possibility of a “Not Guilty” statement: Pleading to a crime automatically states that you are guilty.
  • Immigration consequences: There is a chance that immigrants might be barred from entering a state or country’s borders. This only applies to those who are originally not living within the area
  • Non-binding in court: Even if an agreement is made with the prosecutor, the court is not bound to accept the agreement. The court will ask whether you understand the terms, charges, consequences, and waiver of certain rights of the plea agreement
  • Can not appeal a guilty plea agreement: After accepting the plea agreement, It is sometimes possible to file a motion to withdraw the agreement, but it is very difficult. The chances of an appeal getting accepted are still very low.
  • You must live with the terms and agreements once the case is over.

Some Questions To Ask

Here are some questions that the defendant can ask before entering into a guilty plea agreement:

  • Am I guilty?
  • Has my lawyer spent enough time explaining the agreement to me?
  • What are my chances of winning the case if I decide to take my case to trial?
  • Do I understand all the consequences of pleading guilty?

Final Thoughts

It is important for the defendant to understand everything that is going on and what will happen after a plea agreement. Taking time to evaluate all of these consequences is a must and should not be overlooked.

There are possible advantages but there are also possible disadvantages. Whatever the case may be, the defendant should talk to his or her lawyer regarding the cases and conditions for the plea agreement. With offices in Baltimore, Columbia, Towson, Northern Virginia, Westminster, and Dundalk, we’re here to help you with any questions you may have. Contact us, or call our experts at Albers & Associates at (443) 543-8517 to learn how we can help.

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