The majority of criminal cases do not go to trial. They are resolved through plea deals, whereby the defendant pleads guilty or no contest in exchange for concessions from the prosecution like a reduced sentence or dropping some charges. If you are facing criminal charges, chances are high that you will get such a deal from the prosecution.
It is advisable to avoid rushing into a plea deal without understanding the full implications of your decision. For instance, agreeing to a plea deal means waiving some of your constitutional rights, as explained below.
The right to a trial
You have the right to a fair trial, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. However, you give up this right by accepting a plea deal, as it negates the need for a trial. As such, you won’t have the chance to contest your charges or prove your innocence in a court of law.
The right to confront witnesses
Waiving your right to a trial also means giving up your right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses or challenge the evidence against you. It can limit your ability to present information that could potentially sway the outcome of your case.
The right against self-incrimination
The Fifth Amendment protects you from being compelled to incriminate yourself when facing criminal charges. You can refuse to answer questions or make potentially incriminating statements. You are required to admit guilt when you accept a plea deal, essentially waiving this legal right.
The right to appeal
In most cases, you waive the right to appeal the conviction by agreeing to a plea deal. It means you cannot seek a less lenient sentence or a review of your case like you would if convicted through a jury trial.
Given the importance of the legal protections offered by these and other Constitutional rights, familiarizing yourself with how plea deals work and the potential ramifications before accepting one is prudent. Most importantly, consider seeking legal guidance to help make an informed decision if you are unsure whether a plea deal is in your best interests.