Criminal cases often involve plea deals where a defendant receives a reduced sentence for pleading guilty to one or more crimes. Plea deals can be negotiated at any stage during the judicial process, and are typically used in criminal cases where the evidence of a defendant’s guilt is overwhelming. They allow for the swift resolution of criminal cases which can take months to resolve in court. Plea deals increase efficiency for court systems and reduce court costs, but they often make appeals for new trials and release more difficult for defendants who accept them.
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Controversial Plea Deals
A plea deal is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant or defendant’s felony lawyer where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to receive a charge for a lesser offense or a reduced sentence for a crime. In many states, plea deals are controversial. The state’s attorney’s office often refuses to hear persuasive innocence claims and reexamine cases that involve plea deals. Prosecutors will often fight for years to prevent the introduction of any new evidence or reexamination of old evidence. When judges order new trials or grant writs of innocence, prosecutors often bargain for plea deals that would maintain guilty pleas and convictions to keep people incarcerated.
The Consequences of Plea Deals
When a defendant accepts a plea deal by pleading guilty or no contest to a crime, guilt is established and results in a criminal conviction. The conviction shows up on the defendant’s criminal record, and he/she will lose any rights and privileges that would normally be taken away by a trial conviction. In Alford pleas, a defendant is allowed to maintain his/her innocence for the record and usually given time-served arrangements. With these type of plea deals, a defendant may be granted his/her freedom, but gives up the right to clear his/her name.
Defendants frequently accept plea deals to get reduced sentences and avoid the expense and stress of a court trial. Plea deals do allow defendants some negotiating terms for their sentences before going to trial, but they also prevent the opportunity to be found not guilty for the alleged crime. Defendants who take plea deals waive opportunities to examine or challenge the evidence normally presented against them in a trial. Once plea deals are accepted, later appeals become difficult because the court considers them voluntary actions where defendants admit to their guilt for the crime.