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Tampa Criminal Attorney > Blog > Criminal Defense > Why Does My Lawyer Want Me to Plead Guilty?

Why Does My Lawyer Want Me to Plead Guilty?


The decision to voluntarily plead guilty, which belongs to the client alone, usually comes down to the three Cs of cost, closure, and control. Criminal trials require considerable preparation. Therefore, they are considerably more expensive than pleas. Furthermore, if a defendant decides to go to trial in Hillsborough County, the defendant must wait several months for his/her day in court. Pleas hearings can be scheduled within days. Finally, the defendant has total control over the outcome of a plea bargain resolution, at least in most cases.

The three Cs add up to a 95 percent plea bargain rate in Hillsborough County. But a plea bargain doesn’t mean a Tampa criminal defense lawyer raises the white flag of surrender. Instead, attorneys usually negotiate plea bargains over the course of several weeks. Furthermore before negotiations start, attorneys evaluate cases and identify all procedural, substantive, and affirmative defenses. The stronger the defense, the more favorable the plea agreement.

Pretrial Diversion

A plea agreement might not involve a plea at all. Instead, prosecutors typically offer pretrial diversion, especially in first-time misdemeanors.

Rules vary in different courts. Usually, a pretrial diversion program lasts between one and three months. During that time, the defendant must jump through some hoops, such as performing community service and paying restitution. Additionally, defendants must avoid any further run-ins with the law.

If the defendant successfully completes the program, prosecutors dismiss the case. This dismissal effectively seals the defendant’s criminal record. The arrest record remains, but the defendant has no conviction record.

Agreed Plea

Usually, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer convinces prosecutors to reduce the charges or punishment in exchange for a guilty or no contest plea.

Incidentally, guilty and no contest have the same legal effect. But there’s a moral difference. An admission of guilt is, well, an admission of guilt. Defendants state that they are morally guilty of the acts specified in the indictment or information. No contest means the defendant doesn’t challenge the state’s contentions.

Usually, agreed pleas are final. It’s very difficult to appeal plea bargain resolutions to a higher court in Florida.

The judge, not the prosecutor, always has the final word in these matters. The judge has the power to accept or reject the brokered agreement. In the very unlikely event that the judge rejects the agreement, the judge usually allows the attorneys to resume negotiations.

Open Plea/Slow Plea

These modified pleas combine elements of an agreed plea and a bench or jury trial. So, they only meet two of the three C requirements (cost and closure). However, in many cases, two out of three is better than zero for three.

At an open plea, defendants almost literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court. They plead guilty (or no contest) and let the judge assess punishment. A slow plea is much the same, except a jury assesses punishment following the defendant’s guilty plea.

In both situations, defense attorneys usually call character witnesses and introduce other evidence of mitigating factors. Prosecutors may introduce evidence as well, such as the alleged victim’s testimony.

 Count on a Dedicated Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. Convenient payment plans are available.

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