The results of a criminal trial have serious implications for the defendant if that person is found guilty. Before a trial advances to that point, the criminal lawyer who is representing the defendant may present an option to consider called a plea bargain. This is an arrangement between the defendant and the prosecution that basically exchanges a guilty plea with a reduced sentence. There are many situations where this works well for the defendant and should at least be considered as an option.
Factors To Consider
A common misconception about agreeing to a plea bargain is that it is ‘safer’ to plead guilty even if not guilty rather than risk the results of a jury trial. This is inaccurate. Plea-bargaining is considered when both sides have agreed that the defendant is guilty. There are many reasons why this decision has been reached, including evidence that is available to both sides, how it will be presented, and the impact it could have on a jury’s verdict. What is important is that the representing criminal lawyer, defendant, and prosecutor agree about the defendant’s guilt.
Plea bargaining involves agreeing that the defendant will please guilty in exchanged for reduced charges and/or a reduced sentence. It eliminates the time and cost of a trial, which is beneficial to both the defense and prosecution. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecution can consider less serious charges or a lesser sentence for the defendant as negotiated by his/her criminal lawyer.
Whether or not pleading guilty is beneficial to the defendant is a decision made with the advice of his or her criminal lawyer and depends on many things, including the charges, potential verdict, and associated punishment. If the defendant does not agree with pleading guilty and wants to proceed to trial, it is important for the defendant to be aware that a guilty verdict leaves the potential of facing full charges and sentencing as determined by the jury.
Plea Bargaining Process
Agreeing to a plea bargain involves the defendant’s criminal lawyer working with the prosecution either in person or via a telephone conference. A judge is not involved at this point as part of the intent of plea bargaining is to avoid actual time spent in court. The process can involve three distinct areas:
Charges – This is the most commonly discussed compromise and typically involves negotiating to reduce the charges, the sentence, or both.
Sentence – This part of plea bargaining involves reducing the sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.
Facts – Fact bargaining is less commonly seen and involves the defendant admitting to certain facts regarding the case in exchange for the prosecutor agreeing not to bring other facts to light. The intent is to help the prosecutor’s case without further incriminating the defendant.
Once an agreement on any one of these things has been made between the criminal lawyer, the defendant, and the prosecutor, it is submitted to the court and the case continues as necessary.
Why Plea Bargain?
Plea bargaining is beneficial to defendants as a way to take responsibility for their actions while receiving some consideration for being willing to work with the court toward a shorter conclusion to the case. Since it involves areas that will not likely change even if a case goes to trial, a criminal lawyer may entertain a plea bargain to help clients avoid a potentially worse sentence as well as save time and money for everyone involved.
Every case is different and whether or not a defendant should even consider a plea bargain must be carefully determined. If you are facing criminal charges, seek the help of a criminal lawyer to determine if there is an option to plea bargain – and then negotiate the best possible agreement.
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520