What Is Plea Bargaining?

Plea bargaining is when a defendant’s lawyer goes into negotiations with the prosecutor to attempt to resolve a criminal matter outside of court. Generally, the defendant will agree to plead guilty or no contest to some or all of the allegations in exchange for the prosecutor to reduce charges or recommend a lesser sentence. In some instances, the bargain could include the defendant agreeing to testify against others in separate cases.

A plea bargain can take place at any time during the criminal process, but they typically happen after an arrest has been made or before formal charges have been filed. Often, striking a deal between the defendant and the prosecutor is preferred to taking a case to court, as it alleviates resources in a crowded criminal justice system. A majority of cases are resolved through plea bargaining as opposed to a verdict.

Two types of plea bargains are:

  • Charge bargain: This occurs when the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge than what they were initially facing.
  • Sentence bargain: In this type of bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to the stated charge in exchange for a lesser punishment.

Controversy Concerning Plea Bargaining

Plea bargains are not without controversy. Many people feel that allowing the defendant to make a deal with the prosecutor lets them skirt responsibility for the offense, and the prosecutor does not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of the alleged crime.

Critics have also said that the practice violates a person’s constitutional rights, including the right to trial by jury, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to face their accuser. However, the U.S. Supreme court has upheld plea bargaining, stating that, as long as the defendant understands they are pleading guilty and they know the consequences of a conviction, their constitutional rights have not been violated.

Contact The Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C. for Your Free Consultation

Backed by extensive experience in the criminal justice system, our attorneys know the laws concerning your rights and are ready to provide the legal guidance you need. We will comb through every detail of your case and will discuss your options with you to help determine whether or not to accept a prosecutor’s plea bargain.

To speak with one of our attorneys, call us at (979) 773-7028 or contact us online.