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Should You Accept a Plea Bargain?

Posted on in Plea agreement

plea agreement, Skokie criminal defense attorneyMost cases in the Illinois criminal justice system do not end in a trial. Instead, in most cases a criminal defendant accepts a plea deal also known as a plea bargain. Before you decide if a plea bargain is right for you, you need to understand how they work.

The Criminal Justice Process

Plea bargains are used by prosecutors to help keep the criminal justice system moving efficiently. Often a defendant will receive a plea offer early in the case. One of the first formal steps in a criminal case is the arraignment. This is a court hearing at which the defendant is told what he or she is being charged with and where the defendant enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or other legally acceptable plea.

Prior to the arraignment, many criminal defendants are offered plea deals. This means they have the chance to plead guilty to a particular charge or, in some cases, a lesser charge, in exchange for the prosecutor agreeing to drop other charges or in exchange for the prosecutor recommending a lighter sentence. However, even if a not guilty plea is entered at the arraignment, there is often still a chance to accept a plea deal at a later point before the final trial.

Reasons to Consider Accepting a Plea Offer

For many criminal defendants, a plea offer is a good deal. If the evidence against you is overwhelming, you do not have much of a defense, and you have a chance to face fewer charges, you may want to accept the plea bargain.

The basic factors you need to consider when evaluating a plea deal include:

  • Are you guilty of the crime?
  • What would the likely result of a trial be?
  • Can you avoid jail or prison time by accepting a deal?
  • Can you lessen the time you have to spend in jail or prison by accepting a deal?
  • What will be the other consequences in your life of a criminal conviction?

Reasons to Consider Rejecting a Plea Offer

Sometimes, it is not in your best interest to accept a plea deal. The prosecutor has a high burden of proof to meet to prove to a judge or jury that you are guilty of a crime. If, after consulting with your lawyer, you believe that the evidence against you will not be enough to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it may be in your best interest to reject a plea deal.

Other reasons to consider rejecting a plea bargain include:

  • You are not guilty;
  • You have convincing evidence to prove you did not commit the crime;
  • The plea deal does not lessen the amount of time you are likely to face in jail or prison; or
  • You and your lawyer believe the prosecutor will offer a better deal later.

Deciding whether or not to accept a plea deal is a personal decision that should not be made lightly. You will need to consult with your lawyer and spend time thinking about the possible consequences of going to trial and of accepting a plea deal.

If you have been charged with a crime, you need to speak with a skilled Lake County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Do not talk to anyone else about your case until you have met with a lawyer. Call 847-239-4703 to schedule a free, confidential consultation at the Law Offices of Matthew R. Gebhardt, P.C.. today.



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