What is Plea Bargaining?

 In Criminal Defense

Things have gone horribly wrong, and you find yourself facing criminal charges. Certainly, you don’t view yourself as a criminal, but what can you do now? You might want to consider a plea bargain. But what is plea bargaining, and how can it help you?

Plea bargaining is when prosecutors and defendants reach an agreement for the defendant to enter a guilty plea to at least some of the charges the defendant is facing. Usually, in a plea bargain, the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge, or to only one of several charges. This can benefit a defendant in several ways. In plea bargains, prosecutors often:

  • Agree to reduce a defendant’s punishment;
  • Agree to reduce the number of the charges against the defendant; or
  • Agree to reduce the severity of the charges against the defendant.

How can Plea Bargaining Help You?

Federal statistics indicate that between 90 to 95 percent of all federal and state court cases are resolved through plea bargaining. Plea bargaining is used so frequently for a number of reasons:

  • Defendants can avoid the time and cost of a trial;
  • They also can avoid the risk of facing maximum sentences;
  • Defendants can avoid the publicity a trial could involve;
  • The prosecution saves the time and expense of a trial;
  • The prosecution and defendant both avoid the uncertainty of going to trial; and
  • The court system is saved the burden of conducting a trial on every crime charged.

Plea bargaining can be beneficial to someone facing criminal charges. Everything depends upon your individual case, however.

What kind of plea bargain you are making matters

Not all plea bargains are created equal. There are two kinds of plea bargains: charge bargaining and sentence bargaining. Usually, defendants are engaged in charge bargaining, in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge. In return for the guilty plea, the prosecutor usually drops more serious charges that the defendant is facing.

Sentence bargaining is less common, in part because it can conflict with mandatory sentencing guidelines; the judge may have less leeway in issuing a sentence for a particular charge. Still, in sentence bargaining, a defendant may plead guilty to a charge in exchange for a lesser sentence.

What’s in it for the Prosecutor?

Prosecutors have heavy workloads and are willing to reduce that load by taking plea bargains. If they have a solid case, they might be less willing to take a plea bargain. However, if they are less sure of their case, prosecutors often will offer a plea bargain to get a conviction without the expense of a trial, even if it is for a lesser charge.

If You are Considering a Plea Bargain in the Columbia Area, You Should Contact Criminal Defense Attorney William A. Hodge, Attorney at Law

If you are facing criminal charges in the Columbia area and are interested in a plea bargain, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney. Competent legal representation is the best way obtain the best possible result from plea bargaining. You need a competent attorney to guide you through the legal process. William A. Hodge, Attorney at Law, can assist you. You can call me at (803) 457-2216 or use my online contact form.

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