Criminal trials can be emotionally and financially grueling. For this reason, some defendants choose to accept plea bargains offered by prosecutors in an effort to avoid trial and possibly harsh sentences. However, plea bargains are not always the best course of action for a defendant and in some cases, could lead to a person pleading guilty to a charge that could have been dismissed if the individual had had appropriate legal guidance, so if you live in Philadelphia and were recently arrested or offered a plea bargain, it is critical to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney before signing any binding agreements.
Plea bargains are agreements between prosecutors and defendants, where a defendant agrees to plead guilty to certain charges. In exchange, the case is closed and the defendant is not forced to risk the consequences of a trial. Often, plea bargains allow defendants to plead guilty to charges that are far less serious than those for which they would otherwise be tried. Furthermore, defendants who accept plea bargains avoid the risk of receiving the maximum sentence for the particular charge. Finally, accepting a plea bargain can save defendants thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Types of Plea Bargains
There are a few basic types of plea bargains, including:
- Charge bargaining, which is the most common type of plea bargain and requires a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge, in exchange for which, the prosecutor drops the more serious charges already raised against the defendant;
- Sentence bargaining, which involves a defendant pleading guilty to a stated charge in exchange for a lesser sentence; and
- Fact bargaining, which is relatively rare and requires a defendant to admit to certain facts in return for an agreement that other specific facts will not be introduced into evidence.
According to Rule 590 of the Pennsylvania Code, however, there are certain rules that all parties must abide by regardless of the type of plea. For instance, all pleas must be stated on the record in open court and be agreed to voluntarily. Judges are also given discretion to refuse guilty pleas.
Although plea bargains are often the best case scenario for many defendants, they are not always the proper course of action, which makes it especially important for defendants who are considering a plea bargain to have a clear understanding of the charges leveled against them, their rights to trial, and possible alternatives.
For many types of crimes, the state offers diversion programs that allow a defendant to go through probation rather than a full trial. If a participant is able to complete the program, which could include drug and alcohol treatment, therapy, community service, and restitution, he or she may even be eligible to have the crime expunged from the official records.
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you live in or near Philadelphia and were recently arrested for a crime, please contact the legal team at van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin, at 215-546-1000 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney who can evaluate your case.