When Should You Take a Plea Bargain?

Legal writing

There is no cut-and-dry answer to the question, “when should I take a plea bargain?” Every case is different, every DA is different, and it’s really a case-by-case basis. However, you can learn more about the basics of plea bargains in my recent blog post.

In sum: when it comes to deciding whether to take a plea bargain, you often must balance principle vs. practicality. Let’s look more closely at what that could mean for you and your specific case.

Plea Bargain: Principle vs. Practicality

I once met with a client, a young man, who was charged with a DUI. If he were to be convicted, the DUI would have a major impact on his life: he was a new teacher, and getting a DUI would mean that he would likely lose his job, and it would be very difficult to find a new teaching job anytime soon. The conviction would render all his education useless for the foreseeable future.

I told him in our initial consultation that prevailing at trial would be an uphill battle. He didn’t like that advice, and instead hired a younger attorney who told him, “Yeah! We can beat this. You’ve got a really strong case!”

Instead of taking the plea bargain, this client hired the young attorney and went to trial. He spent thousands of dollars and now has a DUI conviction. Needless to say, he would have been in much better shape if he had taken the proposed disposition.

Going to trial always carries with it the risk of conviction with no concessions from the DA as to sentencing. There is also the stress of having the trial hang over your head for months, and the steep cost associated with going to Court.

So, when it comes to the plea bargain, you have to look at your principles vs. the practicality of your situation. The client I just mentioned thought he could go to Court and have the charge completely wiped off his record. In retrospect, perhaps a wiser move would have been to continue negotiating with the DA in an attempt to reduce the charge so that it wouldn’t affect his employment. [With the limitations placed on D.A.’s in negotiating DUI charges, this too would have been an uphill battle.]

You have to think about three things:

  1. Which charges you’ll have on your record if you’re convicted at trial vs. the charges if you accept the offer;
  2. What sentence you might be given by the judge realizing that there is a good chance that, if you accept a disposition, you know what the D.A.’s recommendation will be. [Clients always have to remember that sentencing is up to the Judge, and the Court may not accept the D.A.’s recommendation. However, the client is always in a better situation if he/she is getting a favorable recommendation from the D.A.],
  3. And what impact this will have on your life.

There are certain plea bargains where, if you successfully complete probation, the case will be dismissed. If a permanent conviction would substantially impact the client, this is an important consideration. Each situation is unique, and you have to evaluate it individually. There are no right answers. It just really depends on your situation.

Plea Bargains vs. Going to Trial

Here are some things I counsel my clients to consider when we’ve been offered a plea bargain…

  • The stress ends. When you take the DA’s offer, the stress of uncertainty comes to an end.
  • It costs substantially less. When you don’t need to go to trial, you’ll spend less money on attorney’s fees.
  • The DA’s position is guaranteed. There are no questions as to what sentence the DA will request, because you’ve already addressed that in negotiations. No nasty surprises there.

Of course, I have some clients who are certain that they’re not guilty. To them, they couldn’t fathom taking a plea deal when they know that they’re innocent. You have the right to go to trial, but as I mentioned earlier, it can have a tremendous impact, even if you win. If you lose, it’s even worse. At the same time, I’ve had many clients go to trial and win. In those cases, the clients were ecstatic with their decision to reject the D.A.’s offer.

If you’re facing charges from the DA, give us a call at 303-449-1873 to schedule a complimentary consultation and find out if Barre Sakol is the right representative for your case.

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