Domestic violence charges can have long-lasting consequences. Even with very little evidence against you, you may be facing a restraining order, jail time, a criminal record, and serious harm to your reputation. A plea deal may allow you to plead guilty to lesser charges, avoiding the stigma of having a domestic violence conviction on your record. A criminal defense attorney can help you think through your options after an arrest to see if negotiating a plea bargain is right for you.
A plea agreement may not be the best option for everyone. There are benefits and downsides of pleading guilty as part of a deal with the prosecutor. If you have a good defense strategy, a plea bargain may not be ideal, because you can still end up with a criminal record. If the prosecutor has a strong case against you, they may not even attempt a plea negotiation. Here are some things to think about in considering a plea agreement for domestic violence charges.
Plea bargains are negotiated agreements between defendants and prosecutors. If you are in this situation, you would plead guilty to certain criminal charges in exchange for reduced sentencing or dropping other charges. Plea bargains are common because they save the court and prosecutor the time and financial resources that a lengthy trial requires.
For defendants, plea bargains may be the best option to reduce the penalties of a criminal conviction. However, by agreeing to a plea bargain, you will be giving up a number of your rights, including the:
Domestic violence includes any type of physical harm involving someone in a close personal relationship, household member, or family member. Domestic violence can also involve making threats, stalking, or harassment. Many states have a mandatory arrest policy and taking the suspect to jail if there is any indication of domestic violence.
The penalties for a domestic violence conviction can be harsh. Depending on the charges involved, penalties can include:
A plea bargain may allow you to avoid some of the harshest penalties for a domestic violence conviction. Working with your criminal defense attorney to negotiate a plea could mean:
However, a negotiated agreement may not be available for your domestic violence case. Some states, courts, or even specific judges do not allow plea deals in domestic violence cases. If there is a lot of evidence against you, the prosecution may not want to offer a deal when they have a good chance of convicting you. This is why it's important to work with a criminal defense attorney in a case like this. They are skilled negotiators and advocates who will be able to help you figure out whether a plea bargain is right for you.
If your attorney can successfully negotiate a guilty plea for lesser charges, you can avoid a domestic violence conviction. Lesser charges could include:
Even though you will still be pleading guilty, these reduced charges will likely carry lighter penalties. There may also be less stigma attached to a conviction for disturbing the peace compared to a domestic violence-related conviction.
You may also be eligible for a diversion program or deferred judgment. A diversion program may involve completing probation in exchange for dropping the charges. Diversion may be available for first-time offenders, people with substance abuse problems, or veterans as a way to get people help instead of simply throwing them behind bars. The terms of a domestic violence diversion program may include:
For some people, pleading guilty may not be the right option. If you were wrongly accused of domestic violence, your criminal defense lawyer may be able to build a strong case so you can avoid any criminal penalties. Do not plead guilty just because of pressure from the district attorney without first understanding your rights and what you could be giving up. As soon as you take a plea bargain, you will be giving up your rights to a trial by jury.
There are several possible defenses to domestic violence charges. Defenses may include self-defense, defense of others, that your alleged victim was actually the aggressor, or that you are the victim of false accusations to get revenge. Make sure you understand your options before pleading guilty. Talk to a criminal defense lawyer for advice in your domestic violence case.