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When should I accept a plea bargain?

You’ve been arrested for burglary—a felony offense in Florida. At a minimum, you could be facing up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. You hire a strong defense attorney, and you begin to prepare for your trial.

But then, before the trial even begins, the prosecution offers you a deal—known as a plea bargain. The deal gives you a unique opportunity. If you plead guilty to the lesser, misdemeanor offense of trespassing, you can avoid the felony burglary charge and avoid going to trial. Should you accept the plea bargain? Here are some factors to consider:

Pros

In some cases, accepting a plea bargain could help you avoid jail altogether. Depending on the offense, you may get probation or community service instead. If you do go to jail, it will be for a shorter period than you would have otherwise served, had you been convicted of the original crime.

In addition, if you’ve hired a private attorney, avoiding a trial will result in considerably lower legal fees. Avoiding a trial also helps you avoid publicity and allows you to move on with your life sooner. Finally, while you’ll still have a criminal record, the offenses on your record will be less serious.

Cons

If you accept the plea bargain, you lose out on the possibility of being found innocent. You must plead guilty and accept some consequences. If you didn’t commit the crime you were accused of, pleading guilty may be an especially tough pill to swallow.

On the other hand, even if you didn’t commit the crime, going to trial doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be convicted. You could face far steeper penalties than if you accepted the plea deal.

Ultimately, the decision to accept or decline a plea deal is up to you. However, in making this decision, it’s worth consulting with your attorney to understand the strength of the case against you and the likelihood that you’ll win if you go to trial.

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Sarasota, FL 34236

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