If you are facing criminal charges in Canada, you have two choices: Fight the charges all the way through a verdict at trial, or accept a plea bargain with the Crown’s prosecutor before the matter goes to trial.
Determining which course is right for you depends on myriad factual and legal factors that differ in each case. Properly evaluating those factors almost always requires the assistance of a lawyer.
What Factors Should Affect Your Decision on Accepting a Plea Bargain?
Every case is different. The differences start with what kind of charges you are facing—criminal offences in Canada are either summary conviction offences, which are relatively minor, or indictable offences, which are more serious crimes. While fighting summary conviction offences at trial might be more expensive than the fines and potentially reduced sentence you might receive in a plea bargain, the factual and legal circumstances might make such a course of action the right one. If your case is strong enough, it is possible the Crown will drop the charges once the prosecutor realizes you will fight the charges and could win. Looking at the reverse side of the same coin, an indictable offence carries more serious penalties that can include significant prison time and large fines. While those factors could make it more likely you would want to try to beat the charges at trial, the facts and law could be against you, and it might be more logical to accept a plea bargain in exchange for a more lenient sentence. The circumstances of your case will always dictate your choice. Given that, it would be foolish to try and make the choice between a plea bargain or a trial without the assistance of a defence lawyer.
Plea Bargains Can Take Several Forms
The Crown can offer several different types of plea bargains. In each, the Crown offers something different in exchange for a guilty plea. Those offers include:
- Charge bargaining: In this case, the Crown offers a reduced charge and the accused agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offence. The Crown also might agree to withdraw or stay other charges, to not charge friends or relatives of the accused with related charges, or make other concessions.
- Sentence bargaining, in which the Crown might offer to pursue the case summarily rather than by indictment, leading to lesser possible sentences, or promise to make a recommendation of a lower sentence, or perhaps not oppose the defence’s request for a lower sentence, among other possibilities.
- Fact bargaining, in which the Crown might agree to not present facts about the accused that could prove detrimental to the accused during sentencing, including, for instance, not putting before the court facts that could be viewed as aggravating circumstances.
Each of these types of plea agreements carries advantages and disadvantages. You should consult a defence lawyer before making a decision.
If You Are Facing Criminal Charges in the Calgary area, Contact the Lawyers of Bourdon Defence
If you are facing criminal charges and are presented with the choice of a plea bargain or fighting charges at trial, you should not make that decision without the input of experienced defence counsel. The lawyers of Bourdon Defence can help you make the right choice after evaluating all aspects of your case. You can reach us at (403) 474-4143 or through our website.