The threat of a criminal conviction can be overwhelming. After all, the penalties oftentimes threatened by prosecutors can be severe and long-lasting. Prison time, financially ruinous fines, and a criminal record that can make it hard to find a job and housing are all very real possibilities. That’s why you have to think very carefully about how you want to approach your case.
This is especially true considering the fact that you’re probably going to be offered a plea deal at some point. Although one of these agreements may bring quick closure and allow you to move on with your life, they don’t always protect you from the severity of the penalties imposed. Therefore, before accepting a plea deal, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the penalties under the plea deal? You have to know the full extent of the penalties that you’re going to face and how they’re going to affect you into the future. By obtaining this realistic perspective, you can better decide if the penalties that will be imposed are penalties that you can live with.
- What are the penalties if you lose at trial? Even if the penalties in a plea bargain seem unbearable, you have to look at them in light of what’s at risk if you go to trial. If the plea bargain penalties and the penalties that might be imposed upon conviction after a trial are similar, then you have less to lose. If the plea bargain penalties are significantly lighter, then you should give more consideration to the settlement offer.
- What are your defense options? You should never accept a plea bargain without first considering every criminal defense tactic at your disposal. There might be an opportunity to suppress key prosecutorial evidence, which increases your chances of obtaining an acquittal. Or maybe you have an alibi witness who will completely destroy the prosecution’s timeline. You have to have a realistic picture of what the prosecution is going to present and how you can counter it before you can accurately gauge whether accepting a plea deal is right for you.
- How have similar cases played out? In a lot of criminal cases, there are evidentiary quirks that can give rise to appeal and leave the resolution of the matter rather uncertain. However, by familiarizing yourself with case law, especially those cases that are similar to yours, you can gain a clearer view of your likelihood of success should you decide to go to trial.
- How quickly do you want to move on? Going to trial can take a lot of time and effort, all while the uncertainty of your future hangs over you. It can be stressful, frustrating, and overwhelming. But it can be completely worth it. You just have to ask yourself what you can handle and what you’re comfortable with.
Know what you want from your criminal defense
A lot of building a strong criminal defense is simply knowing the law and your options given the facts at hand. That might sound simple enough, but the truth of the matter is that this area of the law is fraught with nuances, any one of which can change the direction of your case. That’s why it’s crucial that you know how the law applies to your set of circumstances and how you can use it to your advantage. That might sound daunting, but there are a plethora of resources and support options available to you as you face this challenging time in your life.