Many criminal prosecutions in Texas end not with a court trial but with a plea bargain. This is when the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offense, usually in exchange for a more lenient sentence. However, plea bargains can often be detrimental to the defendant’s interest for the following reasons.
Inaccurate representation of facts
Many defendants enter into a plea bargain without an accurate understanding of what evidence the prosecution has on hand or how strong the case is overall. This means that they may plead to something they did not do or to a crime with a harsher punishment than necessary.
Little to no recourse
Once the court accepts a plea bargain, there’s little to no room for recourse in case something changes. For instance, if new evidence appears that could benefit the defendant’s case, they will be unable to use it unless they have reserved certain rights as part of their plea agreement.
Pressure to plead guilty
Prosecutors may pressure or even intimidate defendants into entering a plea bargain. This can be especially true in cases involving serious crimes, where prosecutors want to avoid a lengthy trial and seek a quick resolution, or in cases when the defendant does not have a criminal defense attorney. Even when there is no intimidation involved, the defendant may feel compelled to accept the plea deal out of fear that they won’t otherwise get a fair trial.
Limited sentence considerations
In many cases, the prosecution will only offer one sentence as part of the plea deal—usually, one that favors their case over the defendant’s interests. This means that defendants have little room for negotiation and must take whatever punishment the prosecution offers if they wish to avoid a lengthy trial.
Every citizen has a right to a fair trial and should consider their options carefully before entering into a plea bargain. It helps to understand the potential risks involved as well as their legal rights to make an informed decision.