Although many countries do not use plea bargains, it is quite commonplace in the American legal system. Plea bargains account for approximately 90% of criminal cases.
What is a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case between the prosecutor and the defendant wherein the defendant pleads guilty to receive a lesser offense and sentence.
Why are Plea Bargains Used?
Plea bargains are used for a wide range of reasons. Although plea bargains often get a bad rap in the media, the justice system would not function without them. Courts are often overcrowded, and prosecutors have too many cases. Plea bargains enable courts to process cases without risking shutting down, and prosecutors can prosecute cases that are more serious without being overloaded.
Defendants also save money and time by avoiding a trial altogether, not to mention they get the benefit of a lighter sentence than if they were to.
Though there are benefits conferred, there are some who question whether plea bargains genuinely serve justice. When a plea bargain occurs, the details of the case are never fully explored, heard, tried, or weighed in a court of law. Because of the moral and ethical concerns surrounding plea bargains, some states in the past, like Alaska, have prohibited it altogether. Nonetheless, plea deals are standard in the U.S. legal system.
When Can a Plea Deal Be Made?
A plea bargain can be arranged anytime during the criminal case. That means a plea deal can take place before the prosecutor filing charges or after the jury deliberates on the verdict in a case. Typically, we secure a deal sometime between the first hearing (either called an Arraignment for a misdemeanor or Initial Appearance for a felony) and the trial.
What Kind of Plea Deals Are There?
There is really no limit as to the kinds of plea deals. If you’ve been charged with multiple crimes, we can often eliminate all but one of the charges. If you have a felony, we can often reduce the charge down to a misdemeanor. If you’re facing 5 years to life, we can often have the judge impose only probation. As with any negotiation, there is a give and take regarding the charges and/or the sentencing. The specific facts of each case will greatly influence what we are able to do, but typically a deal can be secured in 90-95% of cases. But ultimately, the defendant is the one who decides to accept or reject a deal.
Facing Criminal Charges and Looking for a Defense Lawyer in Salt Lake City, Utah?
If you are facing criminal charges, different forms of plea bargains may help you receive a lighter sentence or lesser charge. To negotiate a plea bargain successfully, individuals facing criminal charges would benefit from working with a knowledgeable, experienced attorney. Call the offices of Liberty Law at 801-709-6309 today to schedule your free consultation.