Plea bargains are one of the defining features of the criminal justice system, with estimates of about 90% to 95% of federal and state court cases ending in a plea agreement. The best plea bargain for a domestic violence case depends on the unique facts and circumstances of the charges the accused is facing. Despite the benefits of the plea bargaining process, there are varying opinions about the efficacy and fairness of the system. While agreeing to a plea bargain may eliminate some of the stressors and consequences of a domestic violence charge, admitting guilt can have serious and long-lasting socioeconomic consequences. If you are facing domestic violence charges, it is crucial that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the most common plea bargains for domestic violence cases and which, if any, might make sense in your situation.
Plea Deals in Florida
Plea deals or bargains are agreements between the government and the accused where the accused agrees to plead guilty to a specific charge in return for some benefits from the prosecutor. This process often involves pleading guilty to a reduced charge or sentence. The prosecutor or defense attorney can initiate the plea bargaining process. The general plea bargaining process in Florida entails the following:
- Evaluating the merits and strength of the case,
- Negotiation between the prosecutor and defense attorney,
- Formal plea offer,
- Acceptance or rejection of the offer, and
- Plea hearing.
The judge must review and accept or reject the plea agreement. If the judge rejects the offer, the case may proceed to trial, or the parties may engage in additional negotiations. If the court accepts the agreement, it will impose the stipulations of the agreement. However, in some instances, judges may use their discretion to modify the terms of the sentence.
Types of Plea Deals
Most Florida plea deals involve charge, sentence, or fact bargains.
In these cases, the accused agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge than the one the prosecutor initially filed. The accused may experience a lighter sentence and fewer consequences in these situations.
Additionally, pretrial intervention (PTI) may be an option for eligible first-time offenders. Typically, PTI involves counseling, community service, and other programs. Prosecutors may agree to drop the charges if the accused completes the PTI requirements.
Sentence bargaining involves situations where the accused agrees to plead guilty to the charged crime in exchange for a lighter sentence.
In these cases, the accused agrees to set forth specific facts to prevent the prosecutor from introducing other facts into evidence.
Additionally, some other options in domestic violence cases involving plea bargains include the following:
- Withhold of adjudication—where a judge may withhold adjudication following a plea of guilty or no contest, and
- No contest plea—where the accused is able to accept a sentence without admitting guilt.
Given the number of possibilities related to plea bargains, it is essential to contact a domestic abuse criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty or accepting any offer from the prosecution.
Benefits of Plea Bargains for Domestic Violence Defendants
There are various benefits and justifications of plea bargaining in criminal cases.
Plea bargaining allows the government to resolve cases efficiently, incentivizes individuals to accept responsibility, and spares victims from lengthy proceedings.
Individuals accused of domestic violence often accept plea bargains because it limits the severity of the penalties they might face. Further, the plea bargaining process adds some certainty to an otherwise unpredictable process. Moreover, pleading guilty may allow individuals to avoid the stigma of a trial.
Reasons Not to Accept Plea Bargains in Domestic Violence Cases
While many of the benefits of plea bargaining make sense, in many cases, the purported benefits override fundamental rights. The plea bargaining process can result in many injustices for those accused of domestic violence. Sometimes, the process results in unequal representation, waivers of constitutional rights, and coercion of innocent individuals. Further, the lenient outcome that many prosecutors promise may not come to fruition. Accordingly, as with any criminal proceeding, it is imperative that individuals facing domestic violence charges consult with an experienced attorney.
Are You Charged with a Domestic Violence Crime?
If you were recently arrested and charged with a domestic violence offense, having the right attorney represent you can make all the difference in your case. At the Florida criminal defense law firm of Moses and Rooth, we have unrivaled experience handling these challenging cases due to our background as former prosecutors. This gives us the ability to understand how the government will see your case, and what might motivate prosecutors to offer a favorable plea agreement that eliminates the stress and uncertainty of a trial. To learn more, reach out to the dedicated domestic violence defense lawyers at Moses and Rooth to schedule a free consultation. You can call us or reach us through our online contact form.