If you’re charged with a crime, you may have questions about plea bargains. When you consider taking a plea bargain, it’s important to know how the process works. Here are the basics of taking a plea bargain from our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys.

What Is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement between the district attorney and a person accused of a crime. When the parties make a plea bargain, the accused person admits their guilt in exchange for some kind of reduction in the charges or another benefit. The benefit may be a recommendation of no jail time or a stayed adjudication.

If I Plea Bargain, Am I Guilty of the Crime?

In nearly all cases, if you plea bargain, you’re guilty of the crime that you plead guilty to. Often, the state allows you to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for dismissal of the original charges. In that case, you’re guilty of the crime for which you plead guilty.

For some minor offenses, you may enter a guilty plea with a recommendation of stayed adjudication or submittal. In those cases, you may ultimately win a complete dismissal of the charges against you if you complete a probationary period.

Benefits of Taking a Plea Bargain

Some of the benefits of taking a plea bargain include:

  • Shorter maximum jail sentence
  • Smaller maximum possible fine
  • Avoiding possible collateral consequences of a more serious offense, like preventing a felony on your criminal record
  • You don’t have the uncertainty of going to trial
  • The case may resolve faster than waiting for a trial date
  • You have control over the outcome of the case

Drawbacks of Taking a Plea Bargain

Some of the drawbacks of taking a plea bargain include:

  • A criminal conviction on your record (unless you receive a stayed adjudication or submittal)
  • No opportunity to testify on your own behalf or present your side of the story
  • The state doesn’t have to prove the charges against you
  • Your plea has the same effect as being found guilty in a trial
  • If you face additional charges later, it counts as a prior offense

How Can I Get a Good Plea Deal in a Criminal Case?

You can get a good plea deal in a criminal case by carefully preparing your defense, making strong arguments that you deserve leniency, and negotiating effectively with the district attorney. One way that you can receive a good plea deal in a criminal case is by showing the state that their case is weak. If the district attorney believes that they might lose their case if they go to trial, they’re more likely to agree to a favorable plea deal.

In addition to pointing out weaknesses in the state’s case, you can show the district attorney that you deserve leniency. For example, if you’re facing a drunk driving charge, you should begin counseling. If you’re faced with driving on a suspended license, you can address whatever issue prevented you from having a valid license. The district attorney wants to know that you’ve taken steps to make changes and that you’re unlikely to re-offend.

Finally, you must carefully approach negotiations with the district attorney. It’s essential to be polite and professional. An experienced criminal law attorney can help you negotiate a favorable plea bargain in your case.

How Do I Take a Plea Bargain in a Nevada Court?

You can take a plea bargain in a Nevada court at any time after you reach an agreement. In most cases, the court sets a date for a plea, but the court can take the plea at a time set for a preliminary hearing or even on the day your trial is set to begin. In rare circumstances, the parties may arrange for a plea bargain even before the first court hearing.

After Taking a Plea Bargain

The judge calls the case, and you walk to the front of the courtroom with your attorney. The judge or one of the attorneys begins by identifying the parties present in the courtroom. They say that you’ve reached a plea agreement. They state the plea agreement for the record.

The judge asks you if you want to accept the plea offer. They ask you if you understand that means you’re giving up your right to a trial. The judge asks you what makes you guilty of the crime. You explain in your own words how the offense occurred. The court might sentence you the same day, or they might set a sentencing date in the future.

Plea Bargains and Immigration

When you decide to plead guilty, it’s important to understand all of the potential consequences. You know that you face possible jail time and fines. But you may not know that you can face immigration consequences as a result of a guilty plea.

You may lose your lawful resident status as a result of a plea. It’s important to work carefully with your criminal defense lawyer to appreciate all of the potential consequences of a guilty plea, including changes to your immigration status.

Does the District Attorney Have to Offer a Plea Bargain in a Criminal Case?

No, the district attorney doesn’t have to offer a plea bargain in a criminal case. The court may not intervene to allow the defendant to plead guilty to reduced charges without the district attorney’s consent. If the district attorney won’t offer a plea bargain, the case resolves either through dismissal, a guilty plea or trial.

What Is a No Contest Plea?

A no contest plea is the same as a guilty plea only you don’t ever say that you’re guilty. When you plead no contest, you say that you’re not contesting the charges against you. The court enters a plea of guilty and proceeds to sentencing you as if you had been found guilty or entered a plea of guilty.

Why Enter a No Contest Plea in a Criminal Case?

You may enter a no contest plea in a criminal case because you don’t want to admit wrongdoing. Avoiding an admission of guilt can help you if there’s a civil case related to the same facts and circumstances. Another reason why you might enter a no contest plea in a criminal case is if you don’t remember the events leading up to the charges.

Contact our Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

Do you think that a plea bargain may be right for you? Do you need to negotiate the best possible plea bargain in your case? At Half Price Lawyers, we believe outstanding legal representation shouldn’t cost a fortune. We invite you to meet with your legal team to learn about your options. Your call is free.

About the Author

Mark Coburn, Esq.

Mark Coburn is a dedicated and experienced defense attorney serving the Southern Nevada area. His passion for the law and commitment to his clients has made him one of the most prominent defense attorneys in Nevada. If you’re in need of a defense attorney, contact Mark Coburn for a free consultation on your case.