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Why would you consider a plea bargain?

A plea bargain may be offered if you're facing criminal charges. In exchange for entering the plea that the prosecution wants, you'll be given an idea of your sentence up front. For example, you could be facing a maximum of 25 years behind bars if you're found guilty after a trial, but, if you plead guilty from the beginning, some charges will be dropped and you'll get no more than 10 years.

Now, there is one obvious downside to taking the plea bargain: You have to plead the way the bargain instructs you. You're giving up the chance to beat the charges. You know you're going to be found guilty, in most cases.

There are also upsides, though. You have some control over your sentence, in this way. If you're nervous that you're going to lose the trial and get the maximum sentence, this can be a way to reduce it.

Costs are also reduced on all sides. No one has to go to trial. A lot of time isn't spent on a drawn-out court case. A jury doesn't have to decide if you're innocent or guilty. You don't have to see your trial in the news as often. Essentially, the whole process is shortened considerably, saving everyone time and money.

That's often why the prosecution will offer you a deal. It may mean you get a massively reduced sentence, but the courts have many cases to consider and getting some out of the way quickly can reduce the overall burden on the system.

A plea deal isn't right for everyone, but it's an option you should be aware of. You and your legal team may even be able to negotiate with the prosecution if you're open to it.

Source: American Bar Association, "How Courts Work," accessed Dec. 26, 2016

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