If you're facing criminal charges, your attorney may encourage you to accept a plea bargain. Generally, plea bargains are agreed upon by yourself, your attorney, and the prosecuting attorney. They do not happen in a courtroom. Rather, they are discussed over the phone or during an informal meeting. When an agreement is reached, the judge on your case is alerted and the agreement information is entered into your case file. In many cases, you won't face trial, but you may have to testify on another case as part of your plea bargain.
Plea bargains focus on three main areas of negotiation: the charge, the sentence, and the facts. You may negotiate in any one of these areas. You may also negotiate in more than one area. Following is a little bit more information on each.
This is the most common type of plea bargain. During this negotiation, you may agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge. For example, a person charged with murder may agree to plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for the prosecutor dropping the murder charge, which carries a heftier sentence. Both the defendant and the prosecutor gain something from this agreement. The defendant gets a lesser charge and a lighter sentence, while the prosecutor avoids the stress and expense of trial.
This type of plea negotiation focuses on the sentence. Rather than changing the charge in this type of negotiation, the charge remains the same but the sentence is adjusted in exchange for a guilty plea. For example, if a certain charge carries a penalty of 3 to 7 years imprisonment, the defendant can agree to a lighter sentence, like 2 years in prison, and avoid going to trial where the judge will decide the sentence.
This one is not as common, but it is still used in some cases. When bargaining over the facts, a prosecutor may ask for the defendant to agree that certain facts are true so that the prosecutor does not have to prove them in court. In return, the prosecutor may agree to not enter other facts into evidence.
As you can see, there are several types of plea negotiations. If you're thinking about taking a plea deal, be sure to talk it over with your attorney. Ask questions. You want to be absolutely certain about what you're agreeing to. Keep in mind that after a plea deal, you will always be guilty of the crime on record.
For a criminal defense attorney, contact a law firm such as Ewbank & Kramer.