If you are charged with a crime by California authorities, it’s possible that you will receive a plea deal. Plea deals are typically offered as a method of resolving cases quickly so that court dockets don’t become severely backlogged. Although you are not required to accept a plea deal, data suggests that you may be at risk of a harsher sentence if convicted at trial.
The trial penalty
Typically, when a prosecutor offers a plea deal, the agreement sees one or more of the most serious charges dropped in exchange for a guilty plea. Alternatively, the prosecutor may recommend a lighter sentence than what existing guidelines may call for. However, if you reject the deal, you may go to trial on all of the charges that the state originally wanted to pursue. Furthermore, the prosecution may seek the maximum penalty for any charge that you are convicted of.
Evidence might be withheld
One of the issues you might have when deciding whether to take a plea deal is that you won’t know the extent of the case against you. Therefore, you may mistakenly believe that the prosecution can’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Ultimately, you may decide to reject a deal that might have actually represented your best possible outcome.
You may feel pressured to act
Although a plea deal represents a conviction in your case, it doesn’t mean that you actually did anything wrong. Instead, it may simply mean that you were pressured into abandoning your criminal defense strategy in favor of obtaining certainty about your future. Typically, prosecutors place strict deadlines on when deals must be accepted, and in many cases, defendants accept them so that they can avoid spending days or weeks in jail awaiting trial.
Although accepting a plea deal may allow you to avoid jail time, it may come with negative consequences. For instance, if you have a criminal record, a conviction may trigger mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. It’s also possible that a judge will reject a plea deal or deviate from it at sentencing.