What are the pros and cons of a plea bargain in Maryland?

Plea bargaining is a viable and useful strategy that many Baltimore, Maryland, residents employ when they are defending themselves against criminal charges. However, before a suspect agrees to engage in a plea bargaining strategy, he or she will generally want to know what the pros and cons are of entering into such a deal.

Just like in many personal injury claims where defendants agree to pay a reduced monetary settlement rather than face the risk of paying more if the case goes to trial, criminal defendants can also reach an agreement with the prosecution in many cases. Such a plea bargain arrangement will reduce the uncertainty that is involved with trial proceedings.

Defendants can never know with absolute certainty how a jury of 12 individuals and a judge might rule on their cases. In this respect, plea bargains give defendants a certain level of choice and bargaining power with regard to the severity of their punishments.

According to some legal commentators, plea bargains are a good deal for those who are clearly guilty according to the evidence at hand. In these cases, a guilty person can often obtain a lessened sentence by agreeing to plead guilty. This also benefits the state and witnesses who do not have to expend the time and money relating to trial proceedings.

But what are the downsides? The downsides of plea bargaining involve the defendant giving up the right to his or her day in court, and giving up the right to judgment by a fair and impartial jury of his or her peers. Also, in some cases, the plea bargaining system is abusive, and prosecutors are able to successfully extract plea deals from innocent individuals who are fearful of what might happen in trial proceedings.

At the end of the day, accused individuals must keep in mind that every criminal matter is different — including their own. The choice of whether a plea bargain is right in a particular case requires legal knowledge and experience to evaluate.

Source: Frontline, “Frequently Asked Questions,” accessed April. 10, 2015