Benefits and Risks of Accepting a Plea Deal

If you’ve been charged with a crime in Florida, chances are good that you’ll be offered a plea deal also known as an offer. In a plea deal or an offer, the prosecution typically will convey to you or your attorney what they would be willing to accept as a penalty to resolve your case short of trial. Anytime that such an offer is made it is important to consider both the known and potential benefits as well as the known and potential consequences that may stem from accepting the offer. Now what a plea offer or plea deal may look like may vary significantly based upon things like the level of offense, the presence or absence of criminal history, and sometimes the wishes of an alleged victim. However, it is important to understand that the process of reaching a formal plea deal or agreement may take negotiation between your attorney and the prosecutor. Through this negotiation process the prosecution may agree to drop or reduce some charges, or may simply agree to more favorable sentencing terms. Now as you may be thinking this process has many benefits, and as a result more than 95% of criminal cases are resolved before trial.

But, there are downsides, too. You’ll want to think carefully about the pros and cons of accepting a plea deal, and make sure that you understand all of the possible consequences of each decision. The best source of information about whether a plea agreement is the right answer for you is your criminal defense lawyer.

Here’s a general overview of what you need to know about the pros and cons of entering into a plea deal in Florida.

Benefits of a Plea Agreement in Florida

Some of the key advantages to entering into a plea agreement in your Florida criminal case are:

  • One key advantage of entering a plea deal or plea agreement is that it provides certainty. By entering a plea deal there is a specific and known result for a defendant. This can not only benefit the defendant by removing significant stress, but it can also make it easier for a defendant to start planning their next steps forward.
  • Perhaps the most significant benefit to a plea deal is that it minimizes the risk that a criminal defendant faces. By entering a plea deal a defendant ensures that he or she is not at risk of receiving the maximum sentence possible or a sentence that is more than they can handle.
  • Reaching an agreement short of trial can be less expensive than if a defendant were to proceed to trial.
  • A plea deal also results in a more rapid resolution of a case that might otherwise take months or sometimes years to get to trial.
  • When your criminal defense attorney is negotiating for a plea agreement, they can focus on the concessions that are most important to you.

Many people charged with crimes want to get the matter resolved as quickly as possible so that bond conditions and trial dates and uncertainty won’t continue to impact their lives. However, it’s important to understand the downsides associated with accepting a plea agreement before you make a decision. Your criminal defense attorney can explain the pros and cons and help you make an informed decision.

The Downsides or Risks of Accepting a Plea Deal in Florida

The risks of accepting a plea deal largely center around lost opportunities. More specifically, by entering a plea deal a criminal defendant ends their case and in doing so they give up certain opportunities and the rights that are significant. That’s why it’s so critical to talk to a criminal attorney and make sure you have a solid understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the case against you and the impact of pleading guilty.

Pleading Guilty Cuts Off Your Ability to Fight the Charges

Since a plea agreement is a way to avoid trial, it won’t come as any surprise that by entering a plea deal a defendant is giving up their right to a trial. Now, it’s important to consider exactly what this means for you and that may be tough, especially if you haven’t yet talked to a criminal defense lawyer. For instance a criminal defendant may think there’s no way to fight the charges, but an experienced criminal attorney may see issues that most people wouldn’t recognize.

For example, if your house or car was illegally searched or the police didn’t have probable cause to pull you over, a criminal lawyer might advise filing a motion to suppress the evidence that was illegally collected. If your attorney is successful in keeping that evidence out of court, the prosecutor may be unable to proceed with the case. If you plead guilty though, you lose your right to challenge the search, stop or arrest. That means you could be convicted unnecessarily.

This is an important consideration even if you think that you don’t want to go to trial.

Pleading Guilty Will Result in Some Kind of Criminal Sanction

It may seem fairly obvious, but one of the most significant downsides to entering a plea deal is that a criminal defendant will receive some kind of penalty or sanction. These could be as minimal as being required to pay court costs or as significant as periods of incarceration. Now exactly what the penalty or sanction is differs from case to case, and sometimes enduring such a penalty may clearly be in a defendant’s best interest. However, it doesn’t change the fact that entering a plea deal does result in such a penalty.

You Will Lose Most Appeal Rights

Florida’s Rules of Appellate Procedure state that you generally may not appeal a conviction based on a guilty plea. There are a few exceptions, including when the defendant has reserved appeal rights in the plea agreement. However, this is not the norm, and the general procedure is to have the person entering a guilty plea acknowledge in court that they understand they are giving up these rights.

Determining Whether to Accept a Plea Agreement

The first step in determining whether or not to accept a plea agreement is to discuss your case with an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer can explain the process of reaching a plea agreement, entering a guilty plea, and being sentenced by the court. Your attorney can also assess your case for any weaknesses that may be used to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement. And, they can advise you as to the likelihood that you would be acquitted if you chose to go to trial, and what the likely sentencing range would be if you were convicted.

Attorney Matthew Lufrano has devoted his entire legal career to helping people who have been charged with crimes in Florida. He has successfully represented clients charged with crimes ranging from minor misdemeanors to murder, and has tried many criminal cases before Florida juries. He is certified by the Florida Bar as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law.

To learn more about your rights and options when you’re facing criminal charges in Florida, schedule a consultation right now. Just call 904-513-3905 or fill out the contact form on this site. Mr. Lufrano can help you determine the best way to proceed with your criminal case, based on your priorities and the specifics of the case against you.