Should I Take a Plea Bargain? Part 2
This post is important. It’s a follow up to my first post on Should I Take a Plea Bargain? In that post I talked about a few considerations when you decided whether or not to take a plea. So here we are in Should I Take a Plea Bargain? Part 2. Taking a plea deal is a very important life decision. Ultimately, the decision is yours alone. I don’t make plea decisions for my clients. I can only advise them about the positives and negatives of taking a plea deal. I want what’s best for my clients. Depending on your case, that plea offer may not seem so appealing. However, it may be the only option in your case aside from deciding whether you want a Jury Trial or Trial by Judge.
The focus of this post is going to be on the weight of evidence against you and the costs involved, both financial and potential for jail. A recent client and I almost went to trial due to the questionable evidence against her and the potential costs involved. The weight of the evidence against you can come in the form of witnesses, pictures, videos, confessions, written statements, cell phone records, etc… Financial costs include fees, fines, Court costs, probation supervision fees, testing fees, and other money paid to the State. Jail time is self explanatory. If it’s a misdemeanor you can be looking at up to a year in the county jail. If it’s a felony, it can be for up to life in state prison.
The Evidence Against You
In the beginning of your case I’m going to request the evidence against you from the State of Texas. This is called the Request for Criminal Discovery. This is where I get copies of the police reports, videos, your statements, witness statements etc… A recent client I had, Jane, was charged with criminal trespass on an ex’s mother’s property. It was her second charge of trespassing. Given the past relationship between the two, there was some strong bias involved. The evidence against her was weak, she didn’t want to take a plea, and the costs were high for her.
One of the first things I like to do once I get all of the criminal discovery from the State is to have my client come in and review all the evidence against him/her. Usually I’ll have looked through the evidence beforehand but I like to have my client’s take on the evidence. My clients need to know what evidence the State has against them before any plea deal is discussed. Not only do they need to know what evidence there is against them but they also need to know the quantity and quality of the evidence. Once we look over the evidence together, I give them my opinion on the evidence and the plea bargain offered. If you don’t want to take the plea deal, the evidence isn’t that strong, or you can’t afford the costs, then you should strongly consider rejecting the plea deal.
Financial Costs and Jail/Prison Time
Court costs, fines, supervision fees, treatments, and tests can all rack up over time. Many people can’t bear the cost and wind up unable to pay down the road. In Jane’s example above, she had recently lost her job, her car broke down, and jail time wasn’t an option because she had a child. I completely understand that losing a job and your car breaking down can send your life into a tailspin. When personal expenses are piled high, and the offered plea bargain is unacceptable given the evidence, a trial might be your best option.
Most people don’t want to go to trial. Most people want to avoid trial at all costs. However, there are some people who have no other option. If you don’t want to take a plea deal then don’t take a plea deal. If you want to stick to your guns and go to trial, then consider the risks involved. Should I Take a Plea Bargain? At the end of the day, the choice is yours.