Ryan Krupp in court talking about plea bargains

What You Probably Don't Know About Plea Bargains

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What Is A Plea Bargain?

Plea bargaining is the process that a criminal defendant charged with a crime(s), agrees to waive their constitutional right to a jury trial. The defendant will be given the opportunity to enter a plea other than guilty to the original criminal charges. In exchange, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge, serve probation, serve a shorter sentence, or other options. 97% of all federal convictions are obtained through plea bargaining, not a jury trial.

There is a fair amount of controversy surrounding plea bargains. When a person is charged with a crime they might take a plea bargain with a guilty plea when they may be innocent. The reason for this is they might be scared into accepting a guilty plea by the prosecutor or a public defender who just wants to avoid a jury trial and end the case quickly. For example, the prosecutor can threaten a defendant with 20-40 years in prison if they are found guilty by a jury. Alternatively, they can bargain accepting a guilty plea of lesser charge(s) for just two years in prison. Even innocent people may want to avoid even the slightest chance of losing the jury trial and serving the 20-40 years.

PROS:

  • Plea bargains eliminate surprises. With a plea bargain, you know the outcome.
  • Your criminal defense lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor until an agreement can be reached.
  • Can save you time and money. Criminal cases can take weeks to resolve in court.

CONS:

  • The defendant will have to plead guilty to charges and face some sort of punishment.
  • The defendant waives their constitutional right to a jury trial. The defendant waives the right to defend themselves. The defendant waives their right to remain silent.
  • Limits your ability or waives your rights to appeal.
  • There may be more disadvantages to a plea bargain. Contact a trial lawyer at Krupp Law firm immediately to discuss your case.

For this reason, you need strong advocates on your side. The Krupp Law Firm attorneys are tough analytical trial lawyers who will fight for you.

Ryan Krupp, Trial Lawyer

Four Types Of Pleas

Not Guilty Plea

The defendant denies and wants to contest the charges. A not guilty plea forces the prosecutor to prove you are guilty. The burden of proof is on the government. The government must prove guilt beyond a 'reasonable doubt' before a jury. This is referring to the common statement "guilty until proven innocent".

Initially, all defendants enter a plea of not guilty.

Guilty Plea

The defendant may plead guilty instead of forcing the prosecutor to prove their guilt. Usually, a defendant pleads guilty as part of a plea agreement.

If the defendant pleads guilty the judge will ask whether the defendant is pleading voluntarily, knowingly, and understandingly. The judge is ensuring that the defendant has not been coerced or threatened into pleading guilty.

If the defendant is pleading guilty as part of a plea bargain with the prosecutor the judge wants to make sure the prosecutor will do what they promised.

No Contest Plea also known as "Nolo Contendere" or "NOLO"

A no-contest plea is treated as a guilty plea in court. The potential advantage of a no-contest plea on a misdemeanor can not be used against you in a subsequent civil case. If you plead guilty a plaintiff may be able to use that against you later in civil court. If you plead no contest it can not be used against you later in a civil proceeding. This does not apply to a felony case.

Alford plea

Different Types Of Bargains

Charge Bargaining

Charge bargaining is when the prosecutor agrees to drop or lower the original charges to a lesser offense in exchange for the defendants' guilty plea.

Sentence Bargaining

Sentence bargaining is when the prosecutor offers a specific sentence in exchange for the defendant's guilty plea.

Count Bargaining

Count bargain is when the prosecutor offers to drop the amount of charge(s) in exchange for the defendant's guilty plea.

Are plea bargains legally binding?

When accepted by the defendant plea bargains are legally binding once the judge approves the plea bargain.

Why do 95% of cases end with a plea bargain?

Mainly because of the bail system. Financially challenged people may not be able to afford bail. If they can not bail out they will remain incarcerated until their jury trial is complete. Depending on the charges it may take months or years to complete a jury trial. Most people with financial obligations can not afford to wait in jail for the trial to end. Their lives will be severely disrupted including possible loss of jobs, homes, and relationships. This is why even innocent people plead guilty. It's easier to close the case and accept the punishment. This is extremely unfair and why you need an aggressive, analytical trial lawyer on your side. If you have been unfairly charged you need a strong advocate on your side.

Why are sentences usually reduced for a guilty plea?

Sentences are usually reduced when you accept a plea bargain from the prosecutor. A plea bargain speeds up the process for the government. The government has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt during a jury trial. Trials are an expensive process costing the government time and money. The prosecutor does not care if you are innocent. They just want to get as many convictions as possible. The prosecutor will make a plea bargain more appealing than the criminal charges to avoid a jury trial.

Negotiating a plea bargain

Plea bargaining is a negotiation between the Prosecutor and the Defendant. The Prosecutor is offering a 'deal' to the Defendant to avoid a lengthy and expensive trial. The Prosecutor may offer lesser charges, shorter jail/prison sentence, or other options in return that the Defendant pleads guilty to lesser charges. The Judge does not have to accept a plea bargain but will a majority of the time.

The 'deal' the prosecutor offers is to save the state time and money while closing the cases quickly. The major problem is that many defendants plead guilty even when they are innocent out of fear. If the Prosecutor is throwing every charge possible at you it may come with a lengthy jail/prison time. The plea bargain then looks tempting even to innocent defendants just to avoid the possibility they spend a long time in prison.

This is why you need a tough, aggressive criminal defense lawyer with the experience to get a better plea bargain or get the charges dropped altogether.

Are Plea Bargains available in all cases?

Plea bargains are available in almost all cases but there are a few exceptions. Cases that involve offenses of "socio-economic conditions of the country" or crimes committed against a woman or child below the age of 14.

Is there a time limit on making a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain can be made at any time between when the charges are brought to the end of a jury trial.

Do constitutional rights apply to plea bargains?

Plea bargains did not exist when the founding fathers wrote the constitution. When you accept a plea bargain you do waive some of your constitutional rights. You waive the right to remain silent and your right to a jury trial.

Does the judge have to accept a plea bargain?

A judge can accept a plea or reject a plea. A judge can not modify a plea bargain.

Is a lawyer needed to plead guilty or no contest?

No, but it is highly recommended that you hire a tough trial lawyer. The prosecutor is very experienced and knows all the loopholes. You need a trial lawyer on your side to protect you from a system that just wants to get as many convictions as fast as possible.

Who decides whether to accept a plea bargain?

The judge has the ultimate right to accept the plea bargain. The prosecutor offers the plea bargain to the defendant, the defendant can deny or accept but the judge approves the plea bargain.

Can a defendant plead guilty if they aren't?

Yes, it happens all the time. Plea bargains incentivize people to plead guilty even if they are innocent or over charged.

Can I withdraw my guilty plea?

Yes, you can challenge your guilty plea. You can allege and prove the guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily made. You can:

  1. file a motion for a new trial or
  2. writ of Habeas Corpus.

Missouri law states that you have 30 days to file a motion for a new trial or to amend a judgment.

Habeas corpus

According to the ACLU, The "Great Writ" of habeas corpus is a fundamental right in the Constitution that protects against unlawful and indefinite imprisonment.

Habeas corpus protects the constitutional right that a prisoner is treated fairly during the trial.

Both 'motion for a new trial' and habeas corpus allows a person to make allegations and provide evidence that a guilty plea was not knowingly or voluntarily made.

We highly recommend you consult a lawyer when withdrawing a guilty plea. This is a complex sitution. If you are successful in withdrawing your guilty plea you will have to start all over defending your case.

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