On television dramas about law firms, trials look so easy. After all, they are all wrapped up – from depositions to testimony to verdict – in 48 minutes.

In real life, though, trials aren’t that easy. And they happen way less often than those television shows depict.

In fact, fewer that 10 percent of criminal cases wind up in court. The remainder of them are settled via plea bargains.

What are the pros and cons of taking a plea bargain when you’re charged with a crime?

For the defendants, accepting a plea deal offered by the prosecution means they can plead guilty to a lesser charge and get a lighter sentence. It will look better on their criminal record that the more serious charge, too. Sometimes, however, this encourages defendants to take the plea bargain even if they aren’t guilty because the fear of the known – a set sentence – is better than the fear of the unknown: a conviction and the potential for a lengthy prison term.

For judges, approving the plea bargain helps eliminate a time-consuming trial from a crowded court calendar. Judges, conscious of overcrowded prisons, often will ok a plea deal when the defendant wasn’t likely to get a lengthy sentence.

For prosecutors, the incentive to offer a plea bargain to the defense guarantees they will get a conviction in the case. Even with the strongest evidence, no case is a guaranteed win. In cases where there are two defendants, prosecutors might offer a plea deal to one in exchange for testimony against the other.

But how can you tell if a plea bargain is right for you? It isn’t an easy decision to make, especially if you know you are not guilty. The decision will come down to the specifics of your case, your financial situation, your profession and the deal being offered.

An experienced criminal defense attorney in Georgia can talk through the advantages and disadvantages of a plea bargain with you. It is not a decision to make in haste.