What Is Plea Bargaining?October 11, 2017
Should you ever find yourself facing criminal charges, you might want to consider plea bargaining. But what is plea bargaining and how can it help you? Plea bargaining is when prosecutors and defendants reach an agreement 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 do one or more of the following:
- 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.
Why Consider a Plea Bargain?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 90 to 95% of both 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 on your individual case, however.
What Kind of Plea Bargain You Make Matters
There are two kinds of plea bargains: charge bargaining and sentence bargaining. Usually, defendants are engaged in charge bargaining; this is where 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 runs up against sentencing guidelines and the judge may have less leeway in reducing a sentence for a particular charge. Still, in sentence bargaining, a defendant may plead guilty to a charge in exchange for a lesser sentence.
Why Would a Prosecutor Accept a Plea Bargain?
Prosecutors have heavy workloads and are willing to reduce those loads 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 offer a plea bargain to get a conviction without the expense of a trial, even if it is for a lesser charge.
Call the Zeiger Firm Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
Before anyone ever agrees to plead guilty to any charge, she should thoroughly discuss and weigh her options with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. At the Zeiger Firm, we understand the criminal justice system in the Philadelphia area and know how to seek the most favorable plea bargain possible in each case. In addition, we can advise when taking a plea bargain may or may not be the wisest choice for our clients.
To learn more about our firm, you can reach our legal team at (215) 546-0340 or via our online contact form.