Pros And Cons Of Plea Bargaining In A Florida Criminal Case
South Florida is the most densely populated area of the state, so you can expect that criminal activity is more prevalent as compared to more rural areas. Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) confirms this assumption, as there are around 40,500 arrests in Palm Beach County alone every year. Some of the charges involve so-called Index Crimes that mainly cover violent crimes like murder, rape, aggravated assault, and manslaughter. Others are nonviolent offenses, such as minor theft, drunk driving, simple assault, and violation of gambling laws.
However, arrests represent just part of the story. Many cases will go on to trial, but plea bargaining is another option for resolving the charges. Prosecutors are often willing to work out agreements in appropriate cases, and the benefits seem quite attractive. However, it is wise to get legal help from a Florida criminal defense lawyer, as there are important pros and cons of plea bargaining in a Florida criminal case.
Benefits of Plea Bargaining
In sum, a plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and the defendant to resolve criminal charges. The prosecutor consents to lenient treatment and makes recommendations to the judge; in turn, the person facing charges will have to plead guilty to them. Some pros include:
- You could get the charges reduced to a lower level felony or misdemeanor, and there are considerable advantages when taking a felony down to a misdemeanor.
- The prosecutor may offer reduced punishment and not change offense, but you could receive a more lenient sentence just by facing lesser charges.
- When you work out a plea bargain with the government, you have the benefit of certainty and knowing exactly what the outcome in your case will be. Juries can be unpredictable, so there is always the risk that you will be convicted.
Downside to Resolving Your Case Through a Plea
To better understand the cons, recall that the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to every element of a Florida criminal offense. As such:
- A plea bargain may not be advisable if you have a solid defense. You might have sufficient evidence to get a dismissal during pretrial stages or an acquittal at trial.
- Any agreement you reach with the prosecutor must still be approved by the judge, who may decline to put the plea bargain into effect.
- Because you must plead guilty to the charges, there will be a conviction on your permanent criminal record.
- Even when the criminal penalties are reduced, a criminal conviction still results in collateral consequences. These are the legal limitations and disqualifications that affect your life after serving your sentence.
Discuss Plea Bargain Options with a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Working out an agreement with the prosecution may seem like a wise move to reduce the charges and/or penalties, but you must view the big picture to ensure it is the right decision. Our team at Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A. is prepared to advise you, so please visit us online or call 561-626-8880 today to schedule a consultation.