When you face a federal criminal charge, quite a bit hangs in the balance. Federal offenses are typically quite serious in nature, and while the penalties associated with a federal offense vary, you may have to serve time and pay hefty fines, among other potential repercussions. However, depending on the specifics of the charge you face, the government may offer you a plea bargain. Whether it makes sense to accept the plea bargain depends to a large degree on the strength of the government’s case against you.
Per the U.S. Department of Justice, a plea bargain is a formal agreement you make with the government acknowledging that you are going to plead guilty to the charge you face in exchange for some type of concession.
How plea-bargaining works
When you accept a plea bargain, you must admit to guilt in open court. In exchange for admitting guilt, the court may decide to reduce the charge you face, which in turn should reduce the penalties that come with admitting guilt. Conversely, the court may decide to issue you a lighter sentence than the one typically associated with your offense because you admitted guilt in court.
What happens after accepting a plea bargain
When you accept a plea agreement, you agree to have the judge presiding over your case come up with a fitting penalty. The government may weigh in about your punishment, but, ultimately, it is up to the judge and the judge alone to decide what your sentence should be.
Should you decide to accept a plea agreement, the next step involved attending a sentencing hearing, as opposed to a trial.