November 1st, 2023

When Does it Make Sense to Accept a Plea Bargain?

If you’re facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, prosecutors may offer a plea bargain, which allows you to avoid trial and may lead to lighter penalties. However, before accepting a plea deal, it’s crucial to consider how it may affect your current circumstances and your future. Our criminal defense attorneys at Gross McGinley, LLP, help clients understand the advantages and disadvantages of accepting a plea bargain so they can make informed decisions.

What Is a Plea Bargain?

A plea deal is an agreement between a defendant and the prosecution in a criminal case. Typically, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to criminal charges in exchange for concessions such as dropped charges, a reduced sentence, or a recommendation for a specific type of penalty. Such an arrangement or agreement is often contemplated following the exchange of discovery and negotiations between the Commonwealth and the Defendant’s attorney. Choosing the correct defense attorney is crucial in negotiating such an arrangement, as there is a necessary balance between positioning your client in a situation to get a better deal, without fully tipping your hand as to the defenses that would be presented at trial. Furthermore, an experienced defense attorney will be able to provide a transparent analysis as to your chances of succeeding at trial based on the facts of this matter, and whether a plea bargain would be beneficial under the circumstances.

Regardless of the type of charges you’re facing, it’s vital to discuss any potential plea deals with your criminal defense attorney. They can explain all aspects of the plea bargain and advise you on whether they believe it’s in your best interest to accept it.

Factors to Consider When Negotiating a Plea Deal

Strength of the Prosecution’s Case

Before accepting a plea deal, look at how strong the evidence against you may be. If it is overwhelming and your criminal defense attorney advises you that a conviction is likely at trial, accepting a plea bargain may be your best bet to avoid a potentially harsher sentence. However, if the prosecution believes there are weaknesses in the prosecution’s case or that you have a particularly strong defense, they may be willing to offer a more favorable plea deal and give you some leverage. Your defense lawyer can assess the situation and handle all plea bargain negotiations.

Prior Criminal Record

A prior criminal record can have a significant impact on any plea bargain offered by the prosecution. Your attorney will tell you whether your criminal record may be a factor when it comes to taking a plea and sentencing. Based on the grid-approach used in Pennsylvania’s sentencing guidelines, a conviction always yields a higher potential penalty if you have a past criminal history, with such guidelines extending based on the Defendant’s criminal history and the nature of the crimes he or she is presently charged. 

Potential Penalties

Depending on the circumstances, accepting a plea deal may be best to avoid harsh penalties such as prison time. Carefully compare the penalties you may face if convicted at trial to the penalties offered in a plea bargain. For example, having a felony drug charge reduced to a misdemeanor can mean the difference between being incarcerated or qualifying for probation.

Personal Impact

Being convicted of a crime can have far-reaching consequences. Think about how a trial and possible conviction could impact your personal life. A criminal conviction can affect your ability to find a job and housing, not to mention that it also impacts your reputation and relationships. A lengthy trial can be emotionally draining for you and your loved ones as well. Taking a plea deal may help you avoid some of these consequences and cut down on stress. Each situation is different and requires an experienced and understanding attorney to help navigate the path and provide both pros and cons to such a serious decision.

Consequences vs. Benefits of a Plea Deal in Pennsylvania

Although it can be tempting to accept the first plea offer that comes along, it is important to discuss all aspects of it with your criminal defense attorney. Probation, house arrest, restitution, and other potential conditions of a plea agreement can have both advantages and disadvantages. Shorter sentences, reduced charges, and Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) programs that may result in the expungement of your record also can be beneficial, but sometimes taking the risk of going to trial is well worth the effort. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney guide you through the plea bargaining process ensures your rights are protected and your best interests stay at the forefront.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney You Can Trust at Gross McGinley, LLP

For more than 40 years, Gross McGinley, LLP, has provided top-notch legal representation to clients in Pennsylvania. We provide a wide range of legal services, including criminal defense, family law, business law, litigation, estate planning, business and employment law, real estate, and more. If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges, our defense team can help you understand a potential plea bargain and ensure your rights are protected. To schedule a consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania, contact us or call 610-820-5450.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.