When it comes to criminal prosecutions, U.S. attorneys are quite active. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, there were roughly 80,000 criminal prosecutions in federal court in 2018 alone. The vast majority of these prosecutions ended with defendants agreeing to plead guilty.
Federal prosecutors use plea bargains for many different reasons, including quickly moving criminal matters through the court system. Accepting a plea deal is likely to come with some considerable consequences for you, though. As a result, you must be sure you are truly ready to plead guilty.
Are you actually guilty of the crime?
Some defendants do not realize that accepting a federal prosecutor’s plea deal means pleading guilty to criminal charges. In addition to exposing you to criminal penalties, your guilty plea also might give you a permanent criminal record. Accordingly, if you are not actually guilty of the crime, you might not want to agree to the deal.
Do you have a defense?
Federal prosecutors have a legal duty to prove each element of a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, if you can cast doubt on some part of the prosecutors’ case, you might be able to avoid culpability. If you have a defense, it might be unwise to accept a plea deal before you explore it.
Do you understand the plea bargain?
For your guilty plea to pass legal muster, you must plead guilty voluntarily and knowingly. The voluntary component means your plea must not be the result of force or coercion. For your plea to be knowing, though, you must understand precisely what it says and what its consequences are.
Ultimately, if you do not understand the plea bargain, you simply are not ready to plead guilty to the federal criminal charges you are facing.