Criminal Law: What is a Plea Bargain?

arrested manMany criminal lawsuits are resolved through plea bargains even before the cases reach the trial period. A plea bargain involves the defendant agreeing to a guilty plea, typically to a lesser charge than the original, more serious charge, in order to get a reduced sentence and have related charges in the case of multiple charges.

When the defendant and the prosecution are contemplating a plea bargain, they would base their decision on how serious the charge and circumstances surrounding the crime are and how strong the alleged evidence is, explains Feldman & Lee PS.

How a Plea Bargain is Made

There are many ways to bargain with the prosecution, from reducing sentencing and charges to agreeing to particular facts. To understand the plea bargaining process, here’s an example. Miguel was arrested and then charged with two counts of aggravated assault because he allegedly used a knife during a fight. Miguel could get a plea deal through the following ways:

  • Miguel would plead guilty to one count or charge of the aggravated assault so that the second charge or count could be dismissed;
  • The prosecution offers Miguel to plead guilty to a lesser charge like simple disorderly conduct or simple assault instead of aggravated assault if he agrees to specific facts of the case, such as making threats and using physical violence. This way, the prosecution won’t need to prove these facts at trial.
  • The prosecution has overwhelming evidence against Miguel and the injuries sustained by the victim are so severe that Miguel has no option but to plead guilty to aggravated assault to increase his chances of getting a less serious sentence that he won’t likely receive should the case go to trial and the jury finds him guilty.

Other Crucial Things to Keep in Mind

The court system is generally in favor of plea bargains because of overcrowded jails and the overloaded and undermanned criminal court schedules. It is important to note, however, that some defendants who lack the necessary resources to get the best legal defense might plead out even if they’re not guilty, or guilty of only one charge (in cases involving multiple charges) because they feel they have no choice in the matter.

That said, if you’ve been charged with a crime, it’s best to discuss your case with an experienced defense lawyer to determine the most suitable legal remedies for your situation.