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The term “plea bargain” might sound familiar to you. It holds a crucial place in the justice system. Supporters of plea bargains say that it allows for more options for individuals facing charges. Those who disagree think it is unfair toward either the defendant or the prosecution.

Plea bargains hold a lot of controversy. This does not mean they have no use. But how can you tell that a plea bargain would benefit you?

What is a plea bargain?

Cornell Law School discusses the role of plea bargains in the current judicial system. First, what exactly is a plea bargain? This deal exists between the prosecution and defense. It exists as an equivalent exchange, in which all parties gain something from it. For example, the defendant may claim guilt. In exchange, the prosecution will lower the severity or amount of charges they pursue. They may even request light sentencing from the judge.

How do plea bargains benefit you?

In other situations, plea bargains can involve the trade of information. A defendant may have information that could get a “bigger fish” convicted. In exchange for providing this information or testimony, the defendant may receive a lighter sentence. In some cases, they can avoid sentencing entirely.

Plea bargains can help you if you feel like there is no escaping a guilty verdict. At the same time, if innocent, a plea bargain can feel like a sour deal. After all, you are claiming guilt for something you had nothing to do with. Unfortunately, this mark stays on your record, too.

In the end, it is up to you to decide if the benefits are worth the risk. Consider speaking to an attorney to discuss your best options.