If you are facing criminal charges and want to know more about plea agreements, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer from GDS Law Group, LLP. A plea agreement, also called a plea bargain or plea deal, is an agreement between you and the prosecutor. You agree to plead guilty or no contest to one or more specific charges and in return, you know the sentence the prosecutor recommends to the judge. A plea bargain often involves reduced charges or a reduced sentence, though this is not always the case.
Your defense attorney and the district attorney negotiate the plea bargain, which is then submitted to the court. There is a formal court hearing where the judge hears your plea and accepts or rejects the agreement. When the court approves a plea agreement, there is no trial. You may only need to attend a formal sentencing hearing before your case is resolved.
While plea agreements are commonly used tools in criminal courts, they are never guaranteed. A plea deal may also not be right for you. You should always discuss a plea bargain with an experienced criminal defense attorney before agreeing to anything with a prosecutor. For help negotiating a plea agreement, call our legal team at GDS Law Group, LLP. Our attorneys can discuss your case during a free, initial consultation. Contact us at today.
Can I Get a Plea Bargain?
There is no guarantee that you can obtain a plea agreement in your case. No defendant is entitled to a plea deal. Whether or not a prosecutor will offer one or agree to negotiations with your defense attorney depends on the facts in the case.
What Can Be Negotiated in a Plea Bargain?
Your defense attorney can negotiate specific facts, the charges, and sentencing within a plea agreement. Negotiating particular facts becomes vital if there are certain things you will or will not agree to. Stipulating specific facts, or not, also may be important if you are facing civil liability. The points you agree to in a plea deal can be used against you in civil court. It is important to understand that many plea bargains focus on the specific charges and sentencing, though. Your defense attorney may strive to have the charges reduced in a plea and for you to obtain a lenient sentence.
Can I Get a Reduced Sentence?
Prosecutors use plea bargains to make the criminal court process more efficient. District attorneys do not have the time or resources to take every single criminal charge to trial. However, if plea bargains were not advantageous, there would be very few reasons for you to accept one. Why agree to the maximum penalty available if you could go to trial and possibly be exonerated or given a lesser sentence by the judge? To incentivize defendants to accept plea bargains, prosecutors often offer reduced charges or reduced convictions. Depending on your case and your criminal defense attorney’s negotiation skills, you may be able to get a prosecutor to agree to recommend a reduced sentence.
What Is a No Contest Plea?
For a plea agreement, you may agree to either a guilty plea or a no contest plea, also known as a “nolo contendere.” A guilty plea means that you agree you committed the offense and accept responsibility. A no contest plea means you decide to accept responsibility, yet you do not admit to the crime. Within the criminal justice system, it has the same effect. You will be convicted and sentenced. However, it may matter if you are facing civil charges related to the conduct. A guilty plea can be used against you in civil court. A no contest plea is not as strong of evidence for a civil plaintiff, and it gives you more room to defend yourself in civil court.
Should I Accept a Plea Agreement?
In some situations, accepting a plea deal is in your best interests. If the prosecutor has a strong case against you, then your defense attorney may advise you to avoid a trial. If you go to trial and are convicted, then you can be sentenced to the greatest extent allowed by the law. This situation increases the likelihood of facing the harshest penalty possible for your crimes. Your defense attorney may strive to negotiate a plea deal that, if accepted by the judge, minimizes the consequences of a conviction, including limiting your term of incarceration.
If the prosecutor has a weak case, they will be more willing to negotiate a lower charge or sentence. Whether or not you want to negotiate a deal in this situation depends on the likelihood of exonerating yourself in court. If the prosecutor has a weak case, you and your attorney may be confident in your defense. However, you may still see the merit in saving time and money by accepting a minor sentence for a lesser charge.
Is a Plea Agreement a Bad Idea?
There are circumstances in which accepting a plea agreement is not helpful. If you accept a plea agreement, you forfeit your constitutional right to a jury trial. You cannot take your guilty or no contest plea back. If you and your attorney believe you have a strong defense to the charges against you, you may not want to accept a plea.
Can my Attorney Make me Take a Plea Deal?
No, your defense attorney cannot make you accept a plea agreement. Whether or not you agree to a plea bargain is up to you. Your lawyer will have a thorough discussion with you about the advantages and disadvantages of a plea. Your lawyer may offer you an experienced opinion regarding your chance of an acquittal at trial and whether accepting a plea is a good idea.
Does a Judge Have to Accept a Plea Bargain?
A court must approve a plea bargain for it to be final. The prosecutor, technically, does not have the final say. Plea agreements are often in the court’s best interests because they save time and resources. However, a judge can reject a plea agreement and sentence you to the fullest extent of the law. If the judge chooses to do so, they may be required by court rules to explain their reasoning as to why.
How Long Do I Have to Take a Plea Deal?
Technically, you have until the jury or judge returns a verdict in your case to finalize a plea agreement. However, rarely will prosecutors let a deal sit on the table that long. The district attorney’s office may have policies regarding when plea agreements stop being an option. The prosecutor in your case may also make it clear how long you have to accept an offered plea agreement. If you wish to use a plea bargain to save time and money, then you will want to finalize one before trial.
Can I Withdraw my Plea After Accepting a Plea Deal?
Whether you can withdraw your guilty plea depends on the timing and your reasoning. If the judge has already accepted the plea agreement, then there are very limited circumstances in which you can withdraw your guilty or no contest plea. You may be able to do so if you can show that you were coerced into accepting the plea, that you were tricked into taking the plea, or that you did not understand the agreement. However, this can be difficult to prove since the court requires you to confirm you are voluntarily accepting the plea agreement. If you accepted a plea deal and you realize you should not have, consider speaking to one of our defense attorneys at GDS Law Group, LLP about your options.
Can I Appeal my Case if I Accept a Plea Agreement?
Typically, plea bargains will have a provision stating you cannot appeal your case afterward. However, there are situations in which you can appeal, including if you were coerced or forced to accept the plea or if you were not adequately represented by an attorney during your case. If you were pushed into accepting a plea bargain you did not want, you should contact us at GDS Law Group, LLP. We are also here to review your case if you believe your lawyer did not fully explain the plea agreement to you, and you believe you had ineffective counsel. If there is evidence of either of these issues, we will analyze whether you may appeal your case and the likelihood of a different outcome.
Contact Our Firm to Learn More About a Plea Agreement
If a prosecutor has offered you a plea bargain, or you are interested in a plea agreement in your case, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our lawyers at GDS Law Group, LLP are here to represent you. We will thoroughly review your case and work with you to understand your needs and priorities. Then, we can provide an analysis of the worst and best-case scenarios if you go to trial versus the pros and cons of accepting a plea.
To talk with one of our experienced criminal defense lawyers, call us at or contact us online for a free consultation.