How Plea Bargaining Works
What is the Purpose of a “Plea Bargain”?
- Definition of a “Plea Bargain”
- What are the benefits of a “Plea Bargain”?
- “Plea Bargain” means “comply with the contract”
- Consider a Plea Bargain from the beginning of your case
- Plea Bargains and jurisdictions
- What if the prosecutor does not follow the agreement?
- A Plea bargain might not always happen
A “plea bargain” is known as the first step in criminal case procedure, when both sides enter into negotiation process in the order to avoid trial. We know that the trial could be a long and expensive process. From one side, it helps to defendant to take lesser charge and from the other side it helps to the prosecutor complete his job faster and move on to the next case. Typically, your attorney will be involved in this process. So, if you’ve been caught for Driving Under the Influence, your Orange County DUI lawyer will be representative will be working for you.
In the order to better understand details of this process, we can take an example when the prosecutor, after reviewing the facts, comes to conclusion that he can file charges on several different violations of the law. At the same time, the defendant knows that he can be convicted for all mentioned charges and receive severe penalties. Let’s say that he used someone else’s credit card to make a purchase. By reviewing the facts and underlying circumstances, prosecutor has enough of “material” to charge the defendant for identity theft, false statement, grand theft, and assault on police officer during the time of arrest when he resisted surrendering and much more. The defendant has been temporarily released into the custody of an Orange County Bail Bonds agent. If the case goes on trial and the jury finds that the defendant actually committed all mentioned violations of the law, many years of imprisonment would follow. In that situation, prosecutor takes many factors into consideration: previous convictions of the defendant, obligations which defendant has towards his wife and kids as a breadwinner, length of the trial procedure for this specific case. Prosecutor offers “the deal”, let’s say a charge of a grand theft and reduces maximum sentence to minimum based on specific Penal code, if the defendant accepts what is offered to him.
A plea bargain should be considered as some type of the contract, where both sides come to an agreement what should be the charge and what is expected from the defendant when both sides come upfront of the judge.
Besides above mentioned acceptance of the certain charge and sentence, many times prosecutor might require from the defendant to comply with other terms, such as (but not limited to): cooperating in some investigations for which the prosecutor believes that the defendant might be involved in and even testifying against other defendants involved in this or some other case.
If the defendant does not comply with the contract, the prosecutor might revoke the agreement, increase the charge and request maximum sentence if the case goes to the trial.
The defendant knows all the facts of his case, but many times he believes that other people do not know them. It does happen that the prosecutor keeps something for later, as a part of his strategy in the case that defendant denies all charges. Each case is different and if the defendant knows that he actually violated the law, he should think about his life circumstances, obligations towards others and possible consequences if the case goes on trial. The sooner defendant gets into negotiation process with the prosecutor – the higher chances are that he is going to get better deal resulting in lesser charge.
Not all jurisdictions have the same procedure when it to comes to plea bargain. It is known that even both sides can work with the judge on determining what sentence would be appropriate if the defendant accepts a plea bargain. For lesser violations of the law, this process goes smoother. Let’s take an example of Misdemeanor Courts, where the judge does not even get involved into plea bargain process to the higher degree and most of the time simply approves the contract between the prosecutor and the defendant. Federal court handles serious criminal offenses and judges have final input in sentencing decisions, while they are not so influenced with prosecutors’ suggestion, regardless if the suggestion is the part of plea bargain itself. It is also worth to mention that in this court judges may not be directly involved in bargaining process.
It does not happen very often that the prosecutor steps out from the contract. However, if that does happen, the defendant can even ask the judge for relief. At that point, the judge has several options ranging from forcing the prosecutor to follow the contract and comply with the agreement, let the defendant withdraw the plea of guilty or might come up with some of type of remedy according to the law.
Prosecutors do not have an obligation to take the case to plea bargain stage. Many times this happens when the case is politically charged and mentioned in the mainstream media. In that case, prosecutors would not even consider offering any type of deal. Some cases such as rape or murder are considered to deserve punishment with no mercy – which is the maximum punishment by the law. Some states no longer allow bargaining with a drunk driving charge or repeated sex offenders, since this is considered as something that would place our public in danger.
Prosecutors use to be hired by the local, state and federal government. From that point of view, it is logical that they have political ties. For that reason, if the prosecutor gets the case of a prominent member of specific political party, he cannot offer a plea bargain, otherwise that would be considered as favoritism.
Plea bargain became the most essential part of our criminal justice system nowadays. More than 90 percent of charges get resolved through plea bargain. Taking a lesser charge has replaced well known “not guilty” statements made traditionally by defendants. Plea bargain could play an important role in immigration matters where felonies lead to a deportation. In those cases, immigrants usually take a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony, even if they have to spend more time behind the bars, just to avoid deportation.