When you are accused of a crime, your criminal defense attorney may have tactics to either get the case against you thrown out; at a minimum, they might be able to negotiate what’s called a plea bargain. A “plea bargain” is when the prosecutor and the defense attorney work together to find a settlement to lower the charges that a defendant faces – or even to lessen the consequences of their penalties if they agree to plead guilty or to admit guilt. Plea bargains are a way for courts to save time through eliminating the need for the trial process.
There are different types of plea bargaining tactics that a lawyer can try to negotiate. The specifics of your case will decide which one your defense lawyer can use. The major plea bargain tactics are:
Charge bargaining is the most common plea bargaining tool that your defense lawyer will use. It is when your attorney seeks to change the type or severity of charges that you will face at trial. The bargain is that if you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge, then the prosecutor will lessen the charges against you, which means that you will likely face less harsh penalties and fines.
An example of a charge bargaining plea is: if you are being charged with murder and you agree to plead guilty instead of proceeding to a trial, the prosecutor can lessen the charge to manslaughter, which comes with much less severe consequences and jail time.
A sentence plea bargain is when a defendant agrees to plead guilty to the same charge that they are facing, and in exchange, they agree to accept a lesser or lighter sentence from the court. The benefit to the prosecutor is that there doesn’t need to be a lengthy trial process to prove guilt, which saves time and court costs. The benefit to the defendant is that they get a lighter sentence and benefit from the reduction of the potential consequences they might face if found guilty in a court of law.
One of the least common types of plea bargaining is fact bargaining. This is a process where the defendant will admit guilt, but only to specific and certain facts in the case. If the defendant will accept guilt for specific acts, then in exchange other facts about the case will not be discussed, brought up in court or introduced into evidence. Why would someone agree to fact bargaining? One reason is to omit information that might be either career- or socially-damaging if it was introduced in a court of law.
For the plea bargain to be accepted, there are several things that the defendant needs to know and be aware of:
- They must knowingly waive their rights
- They must voluntarily waive those rights
- There must be facts to support the pending charges for which the defendant is admitting guilt
When the prosecution and the attorney for the defendant engage in plea bargaining, typically a judge isn’t involved unless the circumstances are extreme. The plea bargain, however, is addressed in open court – in front of the judge – and the defendant must be present during the proceedings. The prosecutor does not have the ability to force the court to accept a plea bargain once it has been agreed on. However, the court typically does favor a plea bargain if it has been reached by both parties.
If you are being accused of a crime and facing potentially devastating consequences, there are times when a plea bargain might help to save you from serious charges or severe consequences, depending on what the charges are and how much proof the prosecution has against you. It is important that you understand how a plea bargain will affect your future.
You also need to know that once you admit guilt, you can’t take it back. Don’t take a plea bargain if you are innocent just because it is a way to get out of trouble unless it is absolutely your best option. The only way to know for sure is to have the best criminal defense lawyer in your corner to guide you through the process.
Hopefully, these tips have helped you or someone you know.