A plea deal is an agreement typically offered by the prosecutor in a case, in which the accused agrees to plead to a specific charge in exchange for a specific sentence. Sometimes, the prosecutor offers a lesser charge and probation in exchange for the guilty plea. The intention is to settle the case without a trial, though plea deals have their disadvantages.
There are a few reasons why a plea deal may be a bad idea:
You forfeit your right to trial
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution protects your right to a fair trial by a jury of your peers when charged with a crime. Agreeing to a plea deal forfeits your right to trial. You plead guilty or no contest to the charge and receive your sentence without the opportunity to try your case.
You get a criminal record
Entering a guilty or no contest plea as part of a plea deal results in a criminal record. Any job or home rental application you fill out for the rest of your life may have questions about your criminal history and your conviction shows up on any criminal background check.
The judge may disagree with the agreed sentence
Sometimes the judge disagrees with the sentence agreed upon in the plea. As the judge, he or she can override that agreement once you enter your plea, so you may serve jail time instead of probation.
Plea deals have their place in the legal system but they do not work for everyone. Understand what makes them a bad idea before you decide to accept one in your case.