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When it comes to the criminal justice system, most people accept the fact that a plea bargain is the only guaranteed way to avoid more serious consequences. Despite a person's innocence, accepting a deal is often the most expedient, and certainly the most certain, end to a scary situation. Trials are uncertain, and being found guilty at trial generally involves lengthier or harsher sentencing.
However, how good a plea bargain will be often depends on who's negotiating on a defendant's behalf. While some deals may be too good to pass up, others can have grave consequences that impact every facet of a person's life.
What About Standardized Plea Deals?
In many courts, there are standardized plea agreements for high volume offenses, such as DUIs. These standard deals are usually developed by district attorneys, and deviation from those standards can sometimes be impossible without a lawyer's help.
Unfortunately, sometimes even a lawyer will be powerless to negotiate a better deal than the standard offer. But, a lawyer may be able to negotiate among some predetermined acceptable alternative conditions even in the strictest of standardized plea offers. For example, some modifications might include additional time for completing community service or restitution, allowing a restricted license, or allowing court ordered classes (like anger management, or traffic school) to be completed online.
Negotiating a Better Deal
While an individual may be able to engage in some negotiation on their own with a prosecutor, generally, the discussion needs to remain limited to the deal itself. After all, anything a defendant says during informal negotiations could end up being used against them. Accidentally answering a factual question the wrong way could result in the prosecution learning damning evidence.
Attorneys, on the other hand, can apply more pressure to a prosecutor by engaging in a meaningful discussion of the facts and the law. An attorney is better suited to point out the flaws in the prosecution's case, and therefore may be able to not only secure a better plea bargain, but potentially a dismissal under the right circumstances.