How Plea Bargains Work In Florida Criminal Cases
If you were arrested for a misdemeanor, minor felony, or other non-violent offense, there is a possibility that you can resolve the charges through plea bargaining. The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure allow the prosecutor and defense counsel to discuss options, and there are numerous benefits for reaching an agreement. One of the most important is certainty: Juries can be unpredictable, even when the evidence seems to favor your position. With a plea bargain, you have the opportunity to assess the penalties and know the outcome of your case.
Still, a plea bargain is not always the best approach in a criminal case. You should consult with a Florida criminal defense attorney to learn more about your options and whether an agreement is a wise decision. Plus, some information about how plea bargains work is helpful.
What a Plea Agreement Can Cover
The parties have almost unlimited power to discuss the terms of a plea bargain, and the rules actually encourage agreement. The general idea is that each side gives something up in exchange for a benefit, but the specifics may include:
- Reducing the charges, such as from a felony to misdemeanor;
- Re-defining the charges;
- An agreement on the amount of jail time, fines, and other penalties;
- Dismissing some charges, in cases with multiple counts;
- Ordering probation in lieu of jail time; and
- Any combination of the above.
In exchange for these benefits or other lenient treatment, you will be required to plead guilty.
Plea Bargains and Timing
The rule is also quite flexible on when the parties can discuss plea agreements, so either side can raise the issue at various stages of the criminal process – even in the days leading up to trial. However, there are some strategic factors to consider as far as timing for plea bargain discussions. When there are weaknesses in the evidence or certain information is determined to be inadmissible, a prosecutor is usually more open to the conversation.
Plea Bargaining Process
Discussions about the details of a plea bargain are typically conducted behind the scenes, and your lawyer will keep you informed. The rules require defense counsel to:
- Advise you of all plea offers made by the prosecution;
- Explain the implications of pleading guilty;
- Describe any other possible alternatives for resolving the charges; and
- Obtain your full and complete consent to the plea agreement.
Keep in mind that any plea bargain is still subject to approval by the judge, who will typically agree with the prosecutor’s recommendations. There is always a slight chance the judge will disagree.
A Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Will Guide You Through the Process
Knowing how plea bargains work is useful, but a general overview is not enough to help you with decision-making. Our attorneys at Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A. can evaluate your situation and provide the details you need to make an informed choice. Please contact our offices in Jupiter, FL today to set up a consultation. You can speak to a skilled criminal defense lawyer by calling 561-626-8880 or checking us out online.