Sometimes a defendant will opt for a plea bargain instead of going before a judge for a trial. In a plea bargain, the alleged offender pleads guilty and thus receives a lesser sentence than he or she would have received if convicted at trial. There are several issues with this process, and often a defendant can find him or herself dealing with the consequences of a bad plea deal. 

The important thing to understand about a plea agreement is that accepting one – especially if it results in post-conviction understanding of consequences that were not clear before accepting the agreement – does not necessarily bar the defendant from seeking a resolution afterward.

Problems with plea bargains 

It is not uncommon for a defendant to accept a plea deal without fully understanding what he or she is signing or agreeing to. Perhaps he or she signed with the understanding that this was the best solution in order to avoid a trial and a host of other issues such as high legal defense fees. Bloomberg View has called plea bargains a “travesty.” It cites issues such as mandatory minimums for sentencing and incentives for prosecutors to be harsh on crime, both of which reportedly worsen the plea-bargaining problem.

Research shows that offenders who receive convictions are likely to be treated very harshly in the U.S. criminal justice system, making further criminal activity more probable, rather than less.

Post-conviction relief

Although a defendant may think there is no hope to change anything in his or her situation after accepting a bad plea deal, this is not always the case. There is post-conviction relief available for those who have entered into plea agreements. Post-conviction relief is not the same thing as appealing a conviction.

A defendant may seek post-conviction relief, or PCR, under specific circumstances, such as when the defense attorney was so ineffective that he or she violated the defendant’s constitutional right to counsel. PCR is also available in the event of a substantive change of law, or if new evidence comes to light that clears the defendant. The best way to pursue PCR is to contact an attorney with experience handling these cases in order to explore the options available.