In the United States, many successful criminal cases result in plea agreements rather than jury trials. Plea bargains are negotiations between defendants and prosecutors in which the defendant pleads guilty to a portion or all of the charges filed against them in return for a concession from the prosecution. These agreements allow prosecutors to spend their time and effort on other cases.
As part of a plea bargain, prosecutors usually agree to reduce a defendant’s sentence. They typically do this by limiting the number of charges brought against defendants and also the gravity of the accusations. They may also agree to suggest sentencing reductions for defendants. Some plea deals ask defendants to do more than merely enter a guilty plea. For instance, in criminal trials that involve more than one defendant, prosecutors might offer defendants a favorable plea bargain if they agree to testify for the state.
When are Plea Bargain Made?
In most jurisdictions and courthouses, plea bargaining can take place at practically any stage of the criminal justice process. Plea bargains can be reached soon after a person is arrested and before criminal charges are filed. As a jury returns to the courtroom to announce its decision, plea bargaining might result in a deal. If a trial ends in a hung jury, which means the jurors are split and unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the prosecution and defense might reach an agreement to avoid a second trial. Additionally, plea bargains are occasionally negotiated after a defendant is convicted and the case is still pending on appeal.
Grounds of Negotiation for a Plea Bargain
There are three grounds under which Plea Bargains can be negotiated on, they are:
- Charge Bargaining: This is a well-known and often used plea. It entails a discussion of the exact criminal accusations that will be brought against the defendant at trial. In exchange for a plea of “guilty” to a lesser charge, a prosecutor would normally withdraw the higher or another charge or counts. For example, a prosecutor may accept a guilty plea to manslaughter in exchange for dropping charges of second-degree murder (subject to court approval).
- Sentence Bargaining: When a defendant agrees to plead guilty in return for a lower sentence, this is known as sentence bargaining. It saves the prosecution from having to go to trial and prove its case. It provides for a more forgiving sentence for the accused.
- Factual Bargaining: The least-used negotiation includes admitting to some facts in exchange for a promise not to bring certain other facts into evidence.
You may find yourself in plea bargain discussions with the prosecutor’s office if you’re facing criminal charges. These are crucial negotiations, and you should hire a qualified criminal defense attorney to help you through the process before accepting any offers. And besides, they deal with plea deals all the time and can tell you what your chances are in your case. You can contact Autrey Law Firm, which has a team of qualified and experienced criminal lawyers.