If you are a suspect in a criminal investigation, you undoubtedly are in for a long and drawn-out process. Indeed, after the investigation concludes, you must work your way through a crowded criminal justice system. To speed things along, prosecutors may offer you a plea deal.
According to the Marshall Project, roughly 94% of state felony cases and 97% of federal ones end with plea deals. While there certainly may be some valid reasons to accept a prosecutor’s plea bargain, you must be sure you are ready to do so. Here are three signs that might not be the case.
1. You do not know what the deal means
In the U.S., criminal defendants who accept plea bargains must do so knowingly. This means you must understand what the deal says and what it means for you. If you are not intimately familiar with everything in the plea deal, it is too early to agree to it.
2. You are innocent
There are too many innocent people sitting in jail for crimes they simply did not commit. If you accept a prosecutor’s plea deal, though, you admit guilt and probably have a criminal record for the rest of your life. Therefore, if you are innocent, pleading guilty may be premature.
3. You have a good defense
Even if you are guilty, you have a right to defend yourself against criminal charges. Remember, prosecutors must prove each element of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Simply put, if you have a good defense or believe prosecutors cannot meet their burden, accepting a plea deal may not be wise.
Ultimately, whether you end up agreeing to a plea bargain or rejecting it, you must be certain you understand all your options and fully exercise all your legal rights.