A plea agreement is the negotiated resolution of a criminal case between the government and the defense when the client decides to plead guilty rather than fighting the charges at trial. The benefit of a plea agreement is that the plea is usually to a lower offense or a limited number of charges rather than to the most severe charge(s). In most instances, a defendant is rewarded in some fashion for pleading guilty rather than going to trial.
Your client comes to you and says that he “wants his day in court,” he wants to fight the charges all the way and that he will never plead. You sit down and carefully review the facts of the case, the evidence known to date, the potential defenses, and eventually the potential penalties he faces. You then discuss what it will cost to defend the case, the amount of time and money it will take to thoroughly review the discovery, conduct your own investigation, research the issues involved, draft the motions, argue the motions, trial preparation and trial. The client sits there stunned. Having never before had to pay for anything more than a simple will, real estate closing or speeding ticket, the idea that the aggressive, full on defense that he wants and needs will cost tens of thousands of dollars for a typical state case, and perhaps hundreds of thousands for a federal case, is sobering.