Plea bargaining is a common way criminal cases are resolved in Dayton. It is an agreement between the prosecutor and a criminal defendant for the defendant to give up the right to a trial and agree to plead guilty to criminal charges. In exchange, the prosecution agrees to reduce the charges and/or recommend a lighter sentence.
A judge must approve all plea bargains. The use of plea agreements limits the risk of going to trial for the defense while giving the state a win without the expense and time of a trial.
How Often Are Plea Bargains Used in Dayton?
More than 90% of criminal cases are resolved through plea bargaining. If the state has a strong case against a defendant, the defense may conclude that it is better to plead down the charges. Taking a chance on a jury trial could mean that the defendant is looking at substantially more time in prison if the jury returns a guilty verdict.
With a plea deal, the defendant knows the punishment they will receive for the crime. Since plea agreements are quicker resolutions to criminal cases, the defendant can begin serving their sentence to put the matter behind them faster and get on with their life.
DUI cases are a common example of criminal cases that end with a plea deal. Likewise, drug crimes and misdemeanors are often settled through plea negotiations. In some cases, a defense lawyer can plead down a felony to a misdemeanor, which could avoid the defendant having a felony on their record and losing some of their civil rights because of the felony conviction.
Pleading Guilty as Part of a Plea Agreement
Plea bargaining is often referred to as “sentence bargaining” or “charge bargaining.” That is because the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offense as part of the plea deal.
The lesser charge generally carries a lighter sentence. Therefore, pleading guilty to a lesser charge means that the defendant receives a punishment less severe than they were facing if convicted of the original criminal charges.
The defendant must confirm that they understand what they are doing and freely agree to plead guilty to the charges. The judge must ensure that the person has not been coerced into pleading guilty and understands the consequences of pleading guilty to the crime. That is the only way to ensure that the person is not being forced to give up their Six Amendment right to a jury trial.
What Is the Difference Between a Guilty Plea and a Plea of No-Contest?
During the bargaining process, Dayton criminal defense attorneys may negotiate a plea deal that includes a no contest plea. Instead of admitting they committed the crime, the defendant agrees not to fight the charges.
In other words, the defendant tells the judge they do not want to contest or fight the charges. Instead, the defendant agrees to accept a sentence for the crime without admitting their guilt.
As far as the criminal justice system is concerned, the defendant is being punished in the same way as they would if they admitted to committing the crime. Therefore, why does it matter whether the defendant pleads guilty or enters a no-contest plea?
A no-contest plea is often used when a defendant does not remember committing the crime. For example, the defendant could have been using drugs or alcohol when the criminal offense occurred. As a result, the defendant has no memory of that period in their life.
Another reason to enter a plea of no contest is to avoid admitting guilt in case of a civil trial. If the defendant harmed or injured someone, the victim might file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for damages. The victim has the burden of proving that the defendant caused their injuries to hold them liable for damages.
Therefore, if the defendant pleads guilty in criminal court, the defendant admits they committed the act that led to the victim’s injury. Pleading no contest avoids giving the victim evidence they could use during a civil trial to help establish fault and liability.
When Should I Accept a Plea Bargain for Criminal Charges?
You or your lawyer can try to bargain with the prosecutor to resolve your criminal case at any point before a jury returns a verdict. Typically, plea deals are made to avoid going to trial. Therefore, the parties generally agree to the plea bargain early in the process.
Whether to accept a plea deal depends on the facts of the case and the terms of the plea agreement. An experienced criminal lawyer will access the evidence in the case and the circumstances related to the criminal charges to determine if a plea agreement is the best way to resolve the case. Because juries are unpredictable, accepting a plea deal is sometimes better than taking a chance at trial, even though you may serve some jail time for the guilty plea.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Dayton Criminal Defense Lawyer to Determine if a Plea Deal is Favorable in Your Case
The prosecutor will not tell you about valid defenses to criminal charges. They will not tell you that you could bargain for a better deal.
It is always in your best interest to seek legal counsel before you agree to a plea deal. Contact a criminal defense attorney in Dayton, OH for a free consultation.