Joseph J. Colarusso, Attorney at Law
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Factors that determine whether you should plea bargain

The fact that more than 90 percent of successful criminal convictions are accomplished through plea deals may sound surprising to many people in Connecticut. Why would so many people accept a plea deal rather than fight criminal charges in court? According to Findlaw, the motivations for accepting a plea deal are varied and depend greatly on the defendant's circumstances.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable reason for a person to plea bargain is because a defendant's attorney has professionally assessed the chances of winning in a trial and has determined that prevailing might be difficult at best. At times the best course of action is to be practical about one's chances in beating the charges. However, the choice is always up to the defendant, who may still decide to proceed with fighting the charges in a court trial.

There is also time to consider. Some people cannot bear the endurance of a public trial, either for the publicity it brings, the time it lasts, or both. Then there is the problem of legal costs. While Americans are guaranteed the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, many people still prefer to hire a private attorney to represent them in court. However, the cost of such representation may in some cases be a great burden on one's finances, and a plea bargain may offer an attractive alternative by forgoing a trial and offering a lighter penalty.

Another factor is one's livelihood. A person may lose a professional business license if convicted of a felony. However, if that person instead pleads guilty to a misdemeanor, that person can retain his or her license and be able to continue to work. According to the Law Dictionary, a felony conviction can also restrict a person from taking work in a number of public positions, including as a teacher, a child care professional, a place in law enforcement or the military.

Additionally, there are other rights that may be restricted if a person is convicted of a felony. Many states that require background checks before allowing a person to purchase a gun may deny gun ownership of a felon, particularly if the conviction was for a crime that involved a firearm. Also, felony convictions can deprive a person of federal or state grants or other forms of federal cash. Benefits such as food stamps may be denied. A felon may also not be permitted to live in public housing, and could see their parental rights diminish in the event of a child custody hearing.

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