Pennsylvania’s criminal courts can be extremely crowded places, as prosecutors regularly bring charges for even minor infractions. To avoid lengthy and costly trials, prosecutors often pursue plea deals. In fact, 95% of felony convictions in the U.S. come from guilty pleas rather than judge or jury convictions.
While there certainly are some valid reasons to accept a plea deal, such as receiving a lighter sentence, doing so may not be in your legal interests. Here are three times you probably should not take the deal prosecutors are offering.
1. You do not understand the plea deal
Criminal law can be both confusing and full of legalese, so your plea deal may have language in it you simply do not understand. You also may not fully comprehend the consequences of accepting the plea. Until you understand the ins and outs of the deal, you likely are not ready to take it.
2. You did not commit the crime
Regrettably, for many reasons, innocent individuals sometimes accept plea deals. Still, when you accept a plea, you admit you are guilty of the crime. This, of course, may brand you with a criminal record for the rest of your life. Accordingly, if your conduct did not satisfy all the elements of the offense, you may not want to accept the deal.
3. Prosecutors cannot prove your guilt
In any criminal prosecution, prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if you committed the offense, there may be nothing wrong with holding prosecutors to this burden. If prosecutors have little or no evidence, going to trial may be a better option.
Just as there are consequences for accepting a plea deal, there are often consequences for rejecting one. Therefore, it is important to explore all your legal options when deciding whether to negotiate a deal with prosecutors.