If you are facing criminal charges in Texas, one of the options that might be available to you includes accepting a plea bargain.
But what exactly is a plea bargain? How do they work? What’s a common plea bargain agreement? And are there any other options available besides agreeing to accept a plea bargain?
Texas criminal defense attorney Amanda Webb of The Webb Firm, P.C. has the answers you need to these questions, as well as additional useful information if you have been charged with a serious crime in Texas.
What is a plea bargain?
As the name suggests, a plea bargain is a legally binding agreement between you (the defendant who has been charged with a crime) and the prosecutor, who represents the government in criminal cases.
Many times, the prosecutor and the defendant agree to a plea bargain instead of going to trial. This is often beneficial to both sides since the prosecution does not have to spend time and other resources prosecuting a criminal case. In the case of the defendant, they often avoid prison time, receive a reduced prison sentence, or avoid other penalties, such as criminal fines.
How does a plea bargain work?
In most cases, plea bargains have two essential elements:
- The prosecutor agrees to penalize the defendant to a lesser extent (reduced prison sentence, reduced fines, etc.) in exchange for agreeing to accept a plea bargain.
- The defendant typically agrees to admit guilt to a criminal charge, which allows the prosecution to not have to build a legal case and go to trial.
Once both sides agree to a plea bargain, the agreement must typically be approved by the presiding judge in a criminal case. This is not a guarantee since judges have the authority to reject a plea deal between the prosecution and the defendant.
Even if a judge does agree to accept a plea bargain, the judge may still be able to determine the penalties imposed on a defendant during a sentencing hearing in court.
Examples of plea bargains
Common examples of a plea bargain include:
- The prosecutor agrees to charge a defendant with a lesser charge that carries a reduced prison sentence or no prison sentence, including probation, in exchange for accepting a plea deal.
- In murder cases, a prosecutor agrees to not seek the death penalty if the defendant admits guilt, in which case the defendant might be sentenced to life in prison or a reduced prison sentence.
- The prosecutor agrees to probation instead of a prison sentence for the defendant, provided that the defendant abides by specific requirements, such as not being charged or convicted of another crime within a set time period.
Who initiates a plea bargain?
Either the prosecution or the defendant can initiate a plea deal agreement. Often, a defendant’s lawyer will initiate these proceedings. This is why it’s critical that anyone facing a serious criminal charge has an experienced defense attorney handling their legal case.
Should I accept a plea bargain?
If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, agreeing to accept a plea bargain is a very complicated, important decision. Many times, if the prosecution has extensive evidence against you, it may be in your best interest to accept a plea deal.
However, many people charged with a crime choose to not accept a plea deal, especially if they believe their attorney can convince a jury or judge that there is reasonable doubt about whether they actually committed the crime they have been accused of as part of their criminal charges.
Alternatives to a plea bargain
Depending on the circumstances of your criminal case, common alternatives to accepting a plea bargain include:
- Asking the judge presiding over your criminal case to dismiss your criminal charges.
- Go to trial in the hopes of receiving a not guilty verdict.
- Agree to enter into a pre-trial diversion program before your criminal case goes to trial.
Why should I hire a criminal defense attorney?
The stakes are high if you have been charged with a serious criminal offense in Texas. If you are convicted of a crime, you could be fined thousands of dollars, sentenced to serve several years in jail, and face many other serious consequences.
This is why it’s critical that you have a skilled criminal defense lawyer handling your legal case. Your attorney can explore all the available legal options, including negotiating a plea bargain on your behalf.
Attorney Amanda Webb of The Webb Firm, P.C. thoroughly understands the state’s criminal justice system. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Webb can work with you to develop the best possible legal strategy tailored to the unique circumstances of your case.
To see how we can help you, contact The Webb Firm, P.C., and schedule a free consultation. There are no obligations, just honest answers about your situation and your potential legal options.