If are charged with drug trafficking, it's very likely that you will be offered a plea bargain. In fact, 97% of federal criminal prosecutions are resolved with plea bargains, and state prosecutions are similar. A plea bargain results in minimal sentencing, which can be as much as 5 or 10 years for drug trafficking by first offenders, depending on the amount of drugs involved in the crime.
Before you accept a plea bargain, here are a few important things to understand.
Life continues on during incarceration
It's important to realize that there are a few adverse situations that you may find yourself facing when incarcerated:
- your driver's license may expire
- your home may be foreclosed due to failing to make mortgage payments
- your bank accounts may be closed due to inactivity
- you will lose established credit
Therefore, it's important to carefully consider and weigh the length of jail time offered in a plea bargain as opposed to taking your chances in a jury trial.
Choosing between a accepting a plea bargain and going to jury trial
Under the terms of a plea bargain, you will have no chance to appeal the judge's decision. The sentence you receive will be set in stone, so to speak.Typically, the sentence for a plea bargain is determined by the minimal sentencing requirements of the state or federal court which is handling your case.
If you go to jury trial, the prosecutor may find more evidence to present which the judge may deem appropriate to sentence you with more than the mandatory minimum jail time due to sentence enhancements. Simply put, if you have prior offenses the judge can take those into consideration and impose harsher sentencing. However, you will be able to file an appeal.
For example, what may have been a 10 year sentence with a plea bargain could result in a life sentence with sentence enhancements, as was the case of a heroin dealer in Baltimore. For this reason, it is crucial that you consider taking the plea bargain if you have prior offenses on your record.
Therefore, if you have prior offenses, it may be a good idea to accept the plea. You can use the time while you are serving your sentence to improve your life by taking classes and make a commitment to yourself and your family to not return to your old lifestyle when you are released.
Pleading guilty or no contest can affect civil lawsuits
If there is any reason for a civil suit to be brought against you related to the offense, you may want to consider pleading no contendere (no contest) in your plea bargain. If you plead guilty, it can be used as admission of guilt in a civil trial. However, a no contest plea cannot be used as an admission of guilt for a civil trial.
For example, if you are charged with trafficking drugs out of a friend's or family member's home and they lose their home to civil forfeiture due to your crime, the individual can sue you in civil court for monetary damages you caused them in being displaced from their home. Civil forfeiture is when law enforcement officers take property and/or assets that they suspect were used to commit crime or was paid for by money gained from criminal activity.
A plea of no contest will mean the plaintiff of a civil lawsuit will need to prove that you were guilty of committing a crime that caused them to lose their property. The same holds true for personal injury lawsuits if your drug trafficking resulted in an overdose or other adverse health conditions, particularly if the drug you trafficked was laced with something.
For additional info, contact a firm that specializes in drug charge defense.