A plea bargain is when prosecutors agree to reduce your punishment in exchange for a guilty plea and/or testimony against another defendant. Reduced penalties can involve less severe sentences, cheaper fines, and more favorable terms. They can help someone who may have made a one-time mistake and help the state by reducing the number of inmates in custody and speeding up the court process.

And if you’re charged with a crime, a plea agreement may seem like a great way to resolve things. But they can be riskier than they appear. You are likely still accepting a guilty conviction, and the plea may include complicated or hard-to-follow terms that could put you back in front of a judge before too long.

That’s why you should never accept a plea agreement in a criminal case without having an experienced attorney review it first. Here is more on plea bargains and what to consider in Portage County, Ohio.

Plea Agreements in Portage County

The plea bargain process in Portage County breaks down into a few straightforward steps.

The Prosecutor’s Offer

A prosecutor may offer a plea for various reasons. Perhaps they have overwhelming evidence against you and want to avoid a lengthy trial. Other times, they may believe their best chance of getting a conviction is to convince you to accept a lesser offense. In these cases, they might agree to drop some charges/reduce your sentence if you plead guilty and/or agree to testify.

The Judge Presents a Plea

The prosecutor will give their offer to the judge, who reviews it before reading it to you. You then can review it independently or with your counsel to decide whether you think it is fair. Sometimes, you can negotiate some parts of the deal to be more favorable.

You Accept or Reject It

If you accept it, the terms are executed. If you were convicted of a felony, you might still serve time in the county jail. With some misdemeanors, you might have to set a date to meet with law enforcement agencies to either start your probation or register with a criminal database.

If you reject the deal, the judge sets a trial date. Depending on the nature of the crime(s), you might be released or sent back to jail until your hearing starts.

Think Carefully Before Accepting

Getting wrapped up in the reduced charges/sentences and jumping at a plea bargain is easy, especially if you’ve been charged with a felony, like murder, felonious assault, or theft.

But before you agree to anything, you need to know the full details of what is happening.

How Strong is the Prosecution’s Case?

Prosecutors sometimes use plea deals to “bluff” you into a guilty plea. They might have strong evidence, witness testimonies, and past convictions, but they also could know that an experienced defense lawyer could find ways to cast doubt on all of it. So, they offer it early, hoping that you’ll take it.

Consider the evidence that the prosecution has against you. Accepting a plea bargain may be your best option if the evidence is strong. However, if the prosecution’s case is weak, you may want to consider fighting the charges in court.

The Charges Vs. The Penalties

Think about the charges against you and the potential consequences of a conviction. If the charges are serious and the potential penalties are severe, you may want to consider accepting a plea to avoid the risk of a harsh sentence. On the other hand, if you can live with the risk of fighting your case and proving your innocence, you may want to hold out.

What’s the Impact on Your Criminal Record?

Consider your criminal record and whether a conviction, in this case, could result in enhanced penalties. A plea bargain may be your best option to avoid additional consequences if you have prior convictions.

What are the Terms of the Plea?

You want to know every possible detail of an essential contract before you sign it. A plea deal is no different, it is a legally binding agreement that can result in serious consequences if you make a mistake.  Review the terms of the plea bargain carefully to ensure you understand what you agree to. Ensure that the agreement’s terms are in your best interest and that you are comfortable with the proposed sentence.

Don’t Forget the Long-Term Consequences

A plea can keep you out of jail, and that’s always a positive. But a plea can have other life-long effects.  For instance, you might plead guilty to a crime, making getting a job or finding a place to live difficult. Or you might be on strict probation for a long time, accidentally violate it, and go back to jail.

What Does Your Attorney Say?

Ultimately, the decision to accept or reject a plea bargain is a personal one that depends on your unique circumstances. It is important to carefully consider all of your options and seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney before making a decision. Your attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of accepting the plea bargain and advise you on the best action.

Contact a Portage County Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether referred to as a plea agreement or a plea bargain, a plea might be your best deal. It could spare you time in custody or allow you to deal with a criminal charge more easily. However, a plea offer is one of many complex aspects you must face. Just because a “deal” is presented to you does not mean it’s the best deal for you.  You could be accepting a short-term benefit without understanding the long-term implications of a plea agreement.

If you are facing a conviction and what to discuss your options for a plea in Medina, Summit, Portage County, or anywhere in Northeast Ohio, let the experienced defense lawyers at Erb Legal help. Our attorneys will review your situation and help you build a defense strategy that meets your needs.

Call us today at (330) 869-9007or schedule a consultation online.

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