Can you get a plea agreement for white-collar crime?

Plea agreements are common when it comes to white-collar crime. In fact, many cases never get tried in court.

In Flo rida, when the phrase "plea agreement" pops up, people commonly think about drug crimes or violent crimes such as murder. In other words, they think about a specific type of criminal defendant. However, it is possible for white-collar defendants to get plea agreements, and often, it is a smart move to accept such an agreement.

Why prosecutors may offer plea agreements

Analyzing white-collar crimes (or alleged crimes) often requires months, if not years, of hard, painstaking work. Investigating them, understanding them and explaining them to laypeople also require much tenacity and expertise. In some cases, prosecutors might feel like they have a case but it is so complex that jurors might not understand all the nuances. Money laundering cases, for one thing, may require explanations of the Patriot Act and many technical details. In fact, white-collar crimes are so varied that they include mortgage fraud, identity theft, Ponzi schemes and tax fraud, to name just a few.

In other scenarios, prosecutors might realize that their case is shaky and conviction is uncertain. So, they offer plea agreements. It is also possible that a prosecutor offers a plea agreement to get a defendant-turned-witness to testify to take down someone who may have committed a more serious offense. Sometimes, prosecutors have many cases to juggle and cannot take all to court. So, they offer plea agreements in many to reduce their workload.

What the agreements look like

The plea agreements can take many forms. For instance, a defendant might even get all charges dropped for agreeing to help prosecutors in ongoing investigations. Pleading guilty to lesser charges is also common. Sentences can range from fines to probation to jail time; many options are possible, and a defendant who is charged in one state can get a wildly different result from one charged in another state.

Pitfalls of plea agreements

There are also different types of plea agreements; a "B" plea does not offer as much security to a defendant. Furthermore, many plea agreements require that defendants forfeit rights such as appealing their sentences. That may be one reason why open pleas are relatively popular. These pleas do not require that any charges be dismissed, and there is no security. However, sentences for open pleas do tend to be lower than average.

Being charged with white-collar crimes in Florida is no laughing matter, and people can be under investigation for years. Because few white-collar crimes end up in court, it is even more important for defendants to understand the pros and cons of various plea agreements they have been presented with. A lawyer can help advocate for their best interests.