If you are facing criminal charges, you will likely need to decide whether to accept a guilty plea agreement at some point. You should always talk to your criminal defense lawyer if the State has offered you a plea agreement; however, a Murfreesboro criminal lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what goes into negotiating a guilty plea agreement in case you do decide to accept one.
Criminal Prosecution Basics
The first step in any criminal prosecution is for the State of Tennessee, via the prosecutor’s office, to officially file charges against you. At your arraignment you will be informed of the charges against you, and you will usually have a bond set that, if paid, will allow you to remain in the community while your case is pending. At some point thereafter, the prosecuting attorney will typically offer you a guilty plea agreement. Deciding if a plea agreement is right for you is a question that should only be answered after a lengthy consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Things your attorney will likely consider when discussing the option to accept a plea agreement include, but are not limited to:
- Is the evidence against you strong enough that a trial would be too risky?
- Are you prepared to admit your guilt?
- Are the terms of the agreement acceptable?
What You Need to Know about Negotiating a Plea Agreement
Although most of the terms of a plea agreement can be negotiated, the key to getting the prosecutor to negotiate is usually a weakness in the State’s case. It is up to your attorney to point out and exploit that weakness. Some of the most common terms or components of a plea agreement that you need to understand and that are usually open to negotiation include:
- The charge(s) to which you will plead guilty. If you were originally charged with more than one offense, you may structure the plea agreement so that you are only required to plead guilty to a specific charge or to some, but not all, of the charges.
- Any dismissed charges or cases. If you agree to plead to one of the charges (or to some, but not all, of the charges), the State may dismiss the remaining charges or dismiss other pending cases in their entirety.
- Factual basis. The prosecutor will read into the record a brief synopsis of what you did that led to the charges to which you are pleading guilty. Sometimes, the details of that summary are important for various reasons. In all cases the defendant needs to be able to agree with the factual basis or the judge will not accept the plea agreement.
- Length of incarceration. Time served in jail or prison is one of the most common negotiable terms. When determined ahead of time in a plea agreement you know what to expect at your sentencing. You may need to understand the difference between the term of incarceration ordered and the portion that is suspended. For example, you could be sentenced to five years with three years suspended, meaning you will only have to serve two years if all goes well while you are incarcerated and during any period of probation or parole that follows.
- Terms of probation. Anyone who is sentenced to a time on probation must abide by the standard terms of probation; however, specific terms are open to debate/discussion, such as the length of the probation, any classes required to be completed, and whether the defendant will be required to pay a fine.
- Fines, costs, and fees. Fines and restitution may also be negotiable in a plea agreement.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Lawyer
If you have additional questions about negotiating a plea agreement in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560
to schedule your free appointment.