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Understanding the options of plea bargaining

If you are facing criminal charges, especially in federal court, you may have great concern about how your case will turn out. This may be particularly true if the prosecution seems to have significant evidence against you. In fact, the prosecution team may seem rather confident that they will get a conviction once the judge and jury hear the facts of the case.

Whether you are facing white collar crimes, drug charges or other felony offenses, you may understand that a conviction can mean serious, life-changing consequences. If you are facing multiple charges, it is possible you may be looking at decades behind bars. In situations like these, the prosecutor may approach you with a deal.

Common deals made behind closed doors

Like any kind of bargaining, you should not feel obligated to jump at the first offer the prosecution makes. In fact, you would be wise to discuss your options with your South Carolina attorney before considering any plea deal. The prosecutor may suggest a deal related to any of these areas:

  • Dismissing some charges if you agree to plead guilty to other ones, such as dropping the more serious offenses if you accept lesser charges
  • Reducing the sentence in exchange for your guilty plea, which some judges will not approve
  • Agreeing to withhold certain pieces of evidence from the trial in exchange for your admission that certain facts in evidence are true

You can make a counter-offer if your counsel feels it is appropriate, but you should understand the nature of the evidence against you and whether you would benefit more from accepting a deal than going to trial. If you accept a deal, the judge must approve it. It must be clear to the court that you understand your rights — such as the right to a trial and the right to confront your accusers — that you voluntarily waive those rights, and that the prosecutor has facts to support your guilt.

Your attorney should have a good understanding of the areas of negotiation that may exist in your case and the strength of the evidence with which the prosecution is bargaining. You may feel it is better to accept a deal and avoid the uncertainty of a trial by jury, but you will still have a conviction on your record. This is why it is critical to have sound legal advice at every stage of your criminal process to avoid taking steps that are not in your best interests.

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