All About the Plea Bargain
A plea bargain is a deal made between the prosecution and the defendant through which the defendant accepts some or all culpability for a crime or crimes in exchange for lesser punishment than is possible if the case goes to a full trial. Usually the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offense than the most severe charged.
Can I negotiate a plea bargain myself?
No. In order to be eligible for a plea bargain with the prosecutor, you must be represented by counsel — either a privately retained criminal defense attorney or a public defender; this rule is in effect to make sure that defendants understand the full ramifications of pleading guilty.
Am I entitled to a plea bargain offer from the prosecution?
No. The prosecutor gets to decide whether to offer a plea bargain or not; there are even some situations in which plea bargains are not possible at all.
Does the court have to accept a plea bargain?
No. Even after the prosecution and defense settle on the terms of a plea bargain, the judge has discretion as to whether to accept or deny the request. One reason a court may deny the request of a plea bargain is if the judge feels that the defendant has somehow been coerced into accepting the deal.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a plea bargain?
A defendant may be interested in pursuing a plea bargain for the following reasons:
- Speed up the resolution of the case.
- Lessen or eliminate the amount of possible jail or prison time.
- Get other charges dismissed.
- Keep his criminal record as clean as possible.
- Avoid the publication of private details and information that may emerge through a trial.
Conversely, the plea bargain system does have some potential faults including the possibility that innocent people are punished because they accept plea bargains because of the fear of going through with a trial and also for the potential of releasing serious offenders back into society who may commit more crimes.
If you think you might be interested in pursuing a plea bargain with the prosecution, be sure to get in touch with a local, experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.