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How Does Plea Bargaining Work in North Carolina?

 Posted on March 16, 2022 in Criminal Defense

Raleigh criminal defense attorneyWhile everyone would like their criminal charges to be dismissed completely, or to be found not guilty, this is not always a realistic outcome. In some cases, there is overwhelming evidence, like when a crime is clearly captured by security cameras. In other cases, the risk of going to trial and being found guilty is intolerable to the defendant. In cases like these, the best course of action may be to accept a plea bargain. A plea bargain is essentially a deal worked out between a defendant, his lawyer, and the prosecutor. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecutor may offer reduced charges or reduced sentencing. Always consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the situation before agreeing to a plea bargain. 

How Does the Plea-Bargaining Process Work?

Typically, the prosecutor makes the first offer to your attorney. This begins the negotiating process. If you have a victim, their opinion may be taken into consideration. You and your attorney will discuss each offer the prosecution makes. This is where having an experienced criminal defense lawyer really helps - they will have a better understanding of how fair or reasonable a given offer is. Eventually, your lawyer and the prosecutor will arrive at a “final offer.” Your options then are to take the final offer or go to trial. 

What Are Some Benefits of a Plea Bargain?

The advantage of trial is that there is always a chance - however slim - that you could be found not guilty, in which case you are free to go with no consequences and no record. The risk is that you could be found guilty even if you are not, in which case you could face harsh sentencing. 

The benefits of a plea bargain can include things like:

  • Reduced charges - For example, a DUI could be reduced to reckless driving. Felonies are sometimes reduced to misdemeanors. 
  • Lighter sentence - You may get probation instead of jail time, a shorter prison sentence, or earlier possible parole. A victim’s input on plea bargaining may have less impact on sentencing than a victim’s testimony at trial. 
  • Avoiding trial - Trial is extraordinarily stressful for most defendants. It can also become quite public, so if you are looking to keep your charge quiet, a plea bargain may help. 
  • Less risk - Every trial is a huge gamble for everyone involved. The consequences of losing could be dire. With a plea bargain, any sentencing will be much more predictable. 
  • Faster resolution - It can take years for a case to go to trial, especially now with courts backed up due to COVID. If you plea bargain, your case can generally be resolved within months. 

Of course, the risk of taking a plea bargain is that you could have been found not guilty at trial and will face unnecessary consequences. You will need a competent lawyer to guide you through the cost-benefit analysis associated with plea bargaining. 

Call a Johnston County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, let Vasquez Law Firm, PLLC take the lead in moving you towards the best possible resolution. Our Charlotte criminal defense attorneys have the experience necessary to negotiate with the state on your behalf and guide your decision-making. Call 1-844-YO-PELEO for a free consultation. 




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