Even though the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to a trial, a trial might not always be the best course of action for you. Sometimes, taking a plea deal might give you a shorter sentence than if you went through a trial.
If you are arrested in Louisiana and offered a plea deal, reach out to an attorney before agreeing to anything.
It’s important to understand what happens when you accept a plea deal so that you can decide whether that is the most effective solution for your case. Here are three important factors you should consider.
When you plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a lesser penalty, you’re also agreeing to waive certain rights. These are the following rights you will be forfeiting.
First, you’ll waive the right to counsel if you are unrepresented. If you already have counsel, you’ll be allowed to retain them.
You’ll also waive the right to a jury trial. In place of a jury trial, you’ll plead either guilty or no contest and accept the terms of the plea deal.
The right to not incriminate yourself is also given up when you accept a plea deal. So is the right to confront and cross-examine your accusers.
The final terms of your sentence might change from what you agreed to in the plea deal, and the courts will not give you a chance to change your mind.
The reason the sentence terms might change is because the prosecutor doesn’t have the final say over the sentencing. After you accept a plea deal, you’ll go before a judge and the prosecutor will present the terms of the deal to the judge.
It’s then up to the judge to accept the terms in the original deal or to change them. Ultimately, the judge has the final say and as the defendant, you will not get a chance to change your mind.
If you’re considering a plea deal, you need to fully understand the implications and potential consequences of doing so. In addition to the judge-ruled sentencing, there are other consequences related to a plea deal. For example, if you plead guilty and serve jail time, you could lose your job, put strain on relationships, or have difficulty finding a place to live.
Life after a guilty or no contest plea could be completely different than it was before. It’s likely that people may perceive you as guilty without being given the chance to hear your defense or side of the story.
There are three types of plea bargains that people are offered. The most common type of plea bargain is charge bargaining, followed by sentence bargaining. Fact bargaining is the least common.
This type of plea bargain is the one most people are familiar with. In a charge bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for the prosecution to dismiss the more serious charge.
Since the defendant is pleading guilty to a lesser offense, they will also receive a lighter sentence.
For example, if a defendant is charged with attempted murder, they might plead guilty to aggravated assault instead.
Sentence bargaining is relatively common, but doesn’t occur as often as charge bargaining. With sentence bargaining, the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter or lesser sentence.
An example of sentence bargaining is when a defendant pleads guilty to a murder charge in exchange for the death penalty being removed as an option at sentencing.
Not all courts allow fact bargaining, but it is allowed in Louisiana. With fact bargaining, the defendant agrees to a guilty or no contest plea in exchange for certain facts of the case to be omitted or presented in a specific way.
For example, if a certain amount of illegal drugs might trigger a harsher sentence, the prosecutor might offer a fact bargain to the defendant, having them agree that they were caught with a smaller amount of illegal substances.
If you were arrested in Louisiana, contact a Lake Charles criminal defense lawyer before you accept any kind of plea deal. We will look at all the facts in the case and help you decide whether the plea bargain is in your best interests.
We are here to help you navigate all of your options during this stressful time, so call (337) 433-1414 as soon as possible.