Not all criminal cases go to trial—some charges can be resolved through a “plea bargain” with the prosecution. While a plea bargain requires that you plead guilty to your charge (or a lesser offense), additional charges could be dropped and you may face a much lighter sentence than if you had gone to trial and lost. If you are currently facing charges for a serious criminal offense, a defense attorney can help you decide if a plea deal is the best option and negotiate with the prosecutor.
Plea bargains allow the prosecution and defense to work out a solution without going to trial. If a prosecutor’s case is not particularly strong, a plea bargain allows him or her to quickly resolve the charges in order to focus on more serious cases. Plea bargains also save the defendant the time and expense of going to court to fight the case.
The most common types of plea bargains are charge bargains and sentence bargains. With charge bargaining, the defendant must plead guilty to a lesser charge in order for the more serious charges to be dismissed. An example would be if a defendant pleads to reckless driving rather than driving under the influence.
Sentence bargaining requires that the defendant pleads guilty to a charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence. This type of plea often requires and judge’s approval and is even prohibited in some jurisdictions.
So why would a defendant choose to accept a plea deal rather than fight his or her charges? There are actually several reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason why someone would choose a plea bargain is that going to trial is risky—you could lose your case and face stiff penalties. With a plea bargain, you know exactly what your sentence will be.
Reducing the charges is another benefit of a plea bargain. By pleading guilty to a lesser charge, you can avoid the stigma and criminal record that accompany a more serious charge. A plea bargain can also help you resolve your charges quickly in order to move on with your life.