Courtroom trial dramas on TV make for compelling entertainment, but they bear little resemblance to how the criminal court system actually works. Criminal cases work through the system in a variety of ways, but in the state of Pennsylvania, only 4 percent of those cases end up in an actual trial. That means that 96 percent are settled in a plea bargain — an agreement between the defendant and prosecutor that may result in some charges dropped, reduced or penalties lessened.

A good plea deal may help you avoid a conviction on your record or jail time, or it may even be the push you need toward a life of sobriety if substance abuse factored into the charges against you. However, not all plea bargains are created equal. Striking a fair one requires an experienced criminal defense attorney who is able to thoroughly investigate the facts of your case and to accurately read the prosecution’s willingness to work with you.

Plea bargains have many advantages, and one of them is certainty. When you make a deal with the prosecution, you know exactly what is going to happen with a reduced charge or penalty. Judges are historically more lenient on people who take plea deals because they save courts precious time and money. A plea deal can end a bad chapter in your life and help you start a new one. It can be your first real step on the road of redemption. If you have been wrongly charged and wish to fight for your innocence, a good lawyer will weigh the benefits versus the risks before giving you advice. While plea deals aren’t appropriate in every case, it’s essential you understand what options are available to you in your case before you make any important decisions.

If you have any questions about a potential criminal case or you have already been charged, Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law is ready to help. I have more than 20 years of experience defending Pennsylvanians on a range of criminal charges. To schedule a free consultation, call me at 814-443-1631 or contact me online. My office is in Somerset.