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What’s an open plea in a criminal case?

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Most people have some passing familiarity with the concept of a plea bargain. Typically, these deals involve the defendant agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges or a favorable sentencing recommendation, ultimately mitigating the consequences of their charges.

But, what if the prosecutor simply won’t budge? 

Sometimes criminal defendants get saddled with a prosecutor who seems determined to make an example of them. They won’t concede that their case has any flaws, nor will they acknowledge any mitigating circumstances that argue for leniency. In short, they’re determined to “throw the book” at a defendant, and they’re less interested in justice than in making a point. 

In those situations, a defendant usually feels like they have two choices: They can take their case to trial and hope that they’re acquitted or they go make an open guilty plea. 

An open guilty plea is basically what many people would refer to as putting themselves at the “mercy of the court.” It circumvents the prosecutor and asks the judge to take a look at the case and the mitigating circumstances that you want to present. While the prosecution, too, will get to have their say on the issue, a fair-minded judge may see things a bit differently and be lenient.

Unfortunately, an open plea offers no guarantees, which makes them problematic. In addition, it’s always important to remember that a guilty plea has the same effect as a guilty verdict at trial, with all that entails. When you plead guilty, you are also giving up most appeal rights. 

When you’re thinking about pleading guilty, this is not something you want to try to sort out on your own. Experienced legal guidance can help you weigh your options and find the solution that fits your situation the best.