There are several decisions that you have to make when you are charged with a crime. One of the first choices is how you are going to plead to the charges. Your choice at this stage will determine your options later on.
Your post-arrest plea options and what they mean
Typically, you have three options — guilty, not guilty or no contest. Each of these has a specific purpose. For example, if you plead guilty or no contest, your case could move forward right away to the sentencing phase. If you plead not guilty, your case will move toward trial.
Pleading not guilty opens up another possibility. You might be able to pursue a plea deal if you opt to plead not guilty in the initial phase of the trial. A plea deal may enable you to have some measure of control over the outcome of the case and could prove to be a helpful component of your defense strategy.
Plea deals are worked out between the prosecution and the defense
The prosecution and the defense can work out the plea deal for you. This is typically done through negotiations between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. The back-and-forth process will include various issues, but most prosecutors will only work with an attorney on these matters instead of working directly with the defendant.
Plea deals based on the charge
Most plea deals are based on negotiating the charge that the defendant is facing. By pleading guilty to a lesser charge, you might face fewer and less serious penalties. For example, if you can get your charge reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, you would bypass having to be labeled as a felon and could do away with some of the consequences that come with that label.
Plea deals based on the sentence
Because of the way that this form of plea bargaining is regulated, this isn’t as common as charge bargaining. In this case, your defense attorney and the prosecutor would work out a sentence that you will receive if you plead guilty. If you choose this option, remember that the judge has to approve the sentence, so the sentence bargaining agreement is usually thought of as a request to the judge regarding the sentence.
Other plea deals are possible
There could be other plea deals possible in some cases. In any plea deal, make sure that you fully understand the terms of the agreement. You must realize that if you break your part of the agreement, the prosecutor can withdraw the plea deal and pursue your original charge.