The courts like to use plea deals for many reasons, such as cutting back on the amount of cases they have to schedule and getting results without a trial. Essentially, you’ll be told that you can plead guilty to a lesser charge in order to have the greater charge dropped. This helps the court and the prosecution may offer it if they’re unsure they’ll win a court case.
People sometimes take these deals because it seems easy and it ensures they won’t get the most severe penalties possible. It seems like a good deal. But is it? Not always. It’s important to think about all of the potential ramifications.
Will you have a record for life?
Even innocent people sometimes take plea deals, but pleading guilty may mean you have a record for the rest of your life. If you did nothing wrong or if you think you would never have been convicted, is this worth it? Yes, you did not risk those severe charges, but now you have guaranteed that you’ll always have that conviction on your record.
This can impact your life in many ways. It may make it harder to get a job. You could lose a professional license. Would you be better off trying to keep your record clean so that you can have the type of future that you want?
Could you get deported?
If you’re an immigrant, even if you’re legally in the U.S. — on a work visa or a student visa, for instance — you have to think about deportation. A conviction may lead to deportation, but the plea deal may as well. Your only real option to stay in the country is to plead not guilty and trust that you won’t get convicted in court.
Remember, even lesser charges may be enough to trigger a deportation. Once you have opted to put them on your record, your future in the U.S. may be decided.
Carefully thinking through all options
This isn’t to say that a plea deal will never work. There are cases where it can be the best option. You just need to make sure you think carefully about all of your options when deciding what to do.