Some Important Information About How Plea Bargains Work In Florida
As a defendant, you need to understand that, when it comes to dealing with your criminal charges, you have options. Basically, you don’t have to accept your charges as they are after being charged with a crime. With the help of an experienced defense attorney, you can employ strategies that can reduce your charges, or even have them dropped altogether. An experienced attorney even can help you get a reduced sentence, or even avoid prison, if you do decide to accept a plea offer from the State.
When arrested and charged with a criminal offense, you don’t have to let the jury decide your fate. Often, when a jury convicts a defendant, they may face a maximum sentence and pay hefty fines. Plea bargaining is one alternative that you can consider. However, a plea bargain is not something you should accept without consulting an attorney. It would be best to let a skilled criminal defense attorney with experience in plea bargaining, and who understands the courts and State Attorney’s Office, help you when it comes to plea bargaining.
According to Rule 3.171 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, the trial judge is responsible for determining the sentence a defendant is to face. However, the prosecution and the defense attorney are allowed to enter into plea negotiations and reach what is called a “plea bargain”.
A plea bargain/plea agreement/plea deal is an agreement between a prosecuting attorney, a defendant, and the defendant’s attorney. In this agreement, a defendant agrees to no contest (nolo contendere) or to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence, lesser charge, or having related criminal charges dropped.
The prosecuting attorney or your attorney might decide to suggest a plea bargain for many reasons. One of the main reasons Florida prosecutors and defense attorneys suggest plea bargains is the overcrowding in Florida jails. Another factor that might lead to a plea bargain suggestion is if a defendant is facing too many criminal charges. Nevertheless, regardless of the reason for a plea bargain suggestion, the prosecuting attorney, the defense attorney, and the judge must all reach an agreement. Attorneys agreeing to a plea deal is never the end of the story. A judge needs to approve a plea deal for it to be final.
It is important to note that you waive your right to a trial when you enter a plea bargain and plead no contest or guilty.
What To Consider Before Accepting a Plea Bargain
As already mentioned, you need to work with a skilled defense attorney when plea bargains are involved. An attorney can help you determine if the plea deal you’re being offered is reasonable. A plea bargain might sound good to you, but keep in mind that prosecutors are not there to help you out. Prosecuting attorneys are there to get convictions. It is possible that a plea deal is being offered because the prosecuting attorney is not confident that you would be convicted if brought to trial. Because of that, if you work alone, you might end up accepting an unreasonable deal. A skilled defense attorney will be able to review all of the evidence that the prosecution intends to use against you, and even interview (or “depose” all potential witnesses in the case) and come to an informed conclusion regarding your odds of success at trial, then weigh that risk against what is being offered in a plea agreement.
Some of the things your attorney will consider when determining whether a plea bargain is a fair one include:
- Your chance of winning if you proceed to trial
- The severity of the original criminal charge
- The severity of the lesser criminal charge
Contact Us Today for Help
To assess whether a plea deal is good for you or your chances at trial, reach out to a qualified Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney. The skilled attorneys at the office of Joyce Julian, P.A. are ready to help you with your criminal case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.