Being charged with a crime is a tough reality to face. Feelings of anxiety about how your case will proceed can be overwhelming. The charge as it stands as well as the associated penalties you may face may be even more severe than you expected. Fortunately, charges can change and what you are initially charged with may not be exactly what you end up being charged with. Charges and penalties are often reduced via plea bargaining, among other ways.
A plea bargain is a kind of compromise between you, the accused, and the prosecutor. Not only is plea bargaining common, but the court system relies on it to help move through an already oversaturated docket of cases. When a plea bargain is achieved, the prosecutor will offer something like a lower criminal charge or lesser sentence in exchange for you pleading guilty to the criminal charge and, thus, waiving your right to a trial by jury. By settling the matter out of court, everyone is spared the stress and uncertainty of trial. The court and prosecution save state resources in avoiding a full-blown criminal trial. It can often be a mutually beneficial arrangement for all involved.
Negotiation in Plea Bargaining
While a plea bargain may not always be an ideal solution, it can often be a great alternative to avoiding the potential conviction of a more severe criminal charge at trial. Additionally, accepting a plea bargain spares you the stress of a trial and avoiding court and legal fees as well. A plea bargain allows the prosecution and defense to quickly settle the case. The prosecution avoids going to trial, and you, the defendant, avoid the risk of a more severe penalty if convicted by a jury at trial.
There are different types of plea agreements. A charge bargain, for instance, allows the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge or to fewer charges than that which they were indicted for. A sentence bargain, on the other hand, provides the defendant with advance notice of what the sentence will be should a guilty plea be offered. Sentence bargaining usually occurs in cases where the defendant is being charged with really serious crimes. In most cases, the judge must approve of the sentence bargain. Many jurisdictions have strict limits in place for sentence bargaining.
There is another type of plea agreement that exists, but it is not used nearly as often as charge bargains or sentence bargains. Fact bargaining involves the defendant admitting to certain facts in return for an agreement from the prosecution not to introduce other specified facts into evidence. The admission made by the defendant means that the defendant is stipulating the truth or the existence of provable facts. Stipulating these facts eliminates the need for the prosecutor to have to prove them in court. In exchange, other facts may be excluded from the evidence that may prove less favorable in some way to the defendant’s case.