If you’ve been charged with a crime you didn’t commit, of course, you want to present an aggressive defense. However, things often aren’t that simple. That’s particularly true in white collar crimes. However, in any type of criminal case, a person facing criminal charges may have some amount of responsibility but not deserve the consequences their charges would entail. It may be possible to plea bargain with prosecutors.
Why are prosecutors willing to do that? Often, they just want to avoid the time and expense of a trial. They may also not be certain they have enough evidence to persuade a jury of someone’s guilt. They may have even more incentive to offer a good deal if you have evidence that can help them charge a “bigger fish,” as they say. That’s someone who’s guilty of far more serious offenses but whom they haven’t been able to arrest (or maybe even find).
So what kind of deal should you (or more accurately, your legal representative) seek? Short of letting you off the hook entirely by dropping the charges, which they probably won’t do unless you can give them a really big fish (or more than one), they may offer you one or both of the following:
A reduced charge
You may be able to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. That can make a big difference when it comes to your ability to get a job or even a place to live. Sometimes the goal is to get a less stigmatizing charge – for example, reckless driving instead of OWI.
A reduced sentence
With a reduced charge often comes a lighter sentence. However, even if prosecutors don’t want to reduce the charge, they can seek a lesser sentence, such as house arrest, community service, probation or even “time served.”
Even if you reach a plea deal, it’s ultimately up to a judge to approve. If they feel a charge and/or sentence is too lenient, they don’t have to accept it. In most cases, however, they approve a deal that prosecutors find satisfactory.
Plea bargaining is never something you should try to do on your own — no matter how many episodes of Law & Order you’ve seen, It’s not as easy as it looks. You need to have experienced legal guidance, regardless of whether you decide to seek a plea deal or go to trial.