Breonna Taylor’s death was a tragedy, but what followed for her ex-boyfriend has made the entire situation that much worse.
Breonna Taylor was shot to death by police as they executed a no-knock warrant on her home. Police believed they would find evidence connecting her to a drug trafficking operation they suspected her ex-boyfriend had a part in.
They found no evidence in her home, yet prosecutors attempted to get her ex-boyfriend to name her as a co-conspirator in a plea bargain.
Her ex-boyfriend and his lawyer refused, but this story serves as a cautionary tale. There are coercive measures that are often taken by prosecutors in order to convince someone to take a plea deal that may not be in their best interest.
Read on to find out more about these tactics so you know what should and should not be a part of any North Carolina plea deal for criminal charges.
What Is a Plea Bargain in North Carolina?
If you face criminal charges in North Carolina, then chances are pretty good you will be offered a plea bargain, also called a plea agreement. According to statistics collected by the state, 95 percent of criminal cases are resolved via plea agreements.
Even though all defendants are innocent until proven guilty, the defense can approach the prosecution to reach a plea bargain. In exchange for a voluntary guilty plea or a plea of no contest, a more lenient sentence or reduced charges are usually offered.
This system of plea agreements saves time and money in the criminal justice system, which is why they are so popular. However, what is in the plea bargain should be examined very carefully by you and your criminal defense attorney.
Common Coercive Tactics
Sometimes the prosecution can pressure a defendant to accept a plea agreement that may not be great by using coercive tactics such as:
- Mandatory minimum sentences or enhancements of the sentence that make penalties facing a defendant after a conviction at the end of a trail very intimidating
- Pretrial detention removing the defendant from their home, community, family, and job
- No transparency in the process that can rob defense attorneys and their clients of the ability to scrutinize the details of how a plea deal was made
- Discovery rules that allow prosecutors to hide evidence that can favor the defendant during negotiations
While the tactics used to coerce some defendants into taking a deal aren’t illegal, if there are things in the plea deal you don’t think are ethical or correct, you should speak up.
You should never be coerced to plead guilty or no contest to a crime you did not commit nor should you involve others in the plea agreement if they were not a part of the case, which is what happened with Taylor’s boyfriend’s case.
What Should Be Gained from a Plea Deal
A good plea deal isn’t one that you are coerced to take. Instead, you should benefit from it. Often, the benefits come in the form of:
- A reduced sentence such as probation instead of time in jail or a reduced charge such as a misdemeanor in place of a felony
- A quick resolution since plea agreements should take weeks, not months
- Less money spent on attorney fees
- More control over the outcome since you have a say of what you agree to instead of leaving in the hands of the judge or jury
Make sure you know a plea deal is the right deal for you as a part of your criminal defense.