If you’ve been charged with a crime, you could be facing jail time, fines, and restrictions on your freedom. At some point, you have likely considered entering a plea bargain with prosecutors. Agreeing to a plea bargain is serious and should not be undertaken without extensive discussion with a criminal defense lawyer.
Our goal at Boatright Legal is to protect our clients’ rights and achieve the best possible outcome in a criminal case. Here we explain what you need to understand about plea bargains in South Carolina.
What Is a Plea Bargain?
Plea bargains are agreements between criminal defendants and prosecutors. They may concern either the charges against the defendant or the sentence. Plea bargains that relate to the charges against the defendant are binding. But those that concern the sentence are subject to a judge’s review and approval.
To accept a plea bargain means to plead guilty to a certain charge or set of charges. In exchange, both the defendant and prosecution gain certain benefits. Several of the potential advantages to defendants are explained below. Both sides save the time and money of a criminal trial, which makes plea bargains attractive.
Possible Advantages of Plea Bargaining With Prosecutors
Even if you avoid jail time and fines with a plea bargain, it’s still a guilty plea. Therefore you should never decide to enter a plea bargain before discussing it with a criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer will explain the legal consequences of a plea bargain, along with potential advantages such as:
Avoiding the Uncertainty of a Trial
You and your attorney may have a strong case. Perhaps the prosecution’s case, meanwhile, is riddled with flaws. But regardless of the facts or arguments weighing in your favor, there is an inherent risk in going to trial. And that risk comes largely from not knowing how a jury will view you and the charges against you. A plea bargain avoids this uncertainty and gives you control over the outcome of your case.
A Lighter Sentence
Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you may end up with a significantly lighter sentence. This is especially true if you negotiate less severe charges than the prosecution originally wanted to try in court. If you plea to a reduced sentence, the judge must still review the agreement. But judges typically approve sentencing agreements between defense attorneys and prosecutors.
Possibly Avoiding Jail and Fines Altogether
It’s even possible to work out a deal involving no jail time or fines at all. Of course, this depends largely on the nature of the charges and the strength of the evidence against you. As part of your plea bargain, you may be able to enroll in an intervention program instead of jail.
Reduced Lawyer Fees
Preparing for and trying a criminal case takes time and care. There is evidence to acquire, there are witnesses to speak with, and you may need expert witnesses. All of these will result in higher legal fees and court costs. Avoiding a trial naturally means less personal expense to the defendant.
Earning Favor With the Judge and Prosecutor
Judges appreciate defendants who accept responsibility for their actions, which a plea bargain clearly signals. Your agreement may also include steps to correct whatever behavior led to the charges in the first place.
This makes it more likely that the judge will accept a sentencing agreement reached with the prosecution. Meanwhile, prosecutors with full caseloads are more likely to grant leniency they would not extend if they had to try the case.
Explore Your Legal Options With Our Criminal Defense Team
The potential benefits and drawbacks of a plea bargain depend largely on the specific facts and circumstances in your case. We can help you evaluate your legal options and determine if a plea bargain or a trial is best for you.
Let Boatright Legal review your case by scheduling a consultation with our office. Give us a call today.