Contrary to popular opinion, or what you have come to believe from watching Law & Order reruns, very few criminal matters go to trial. Trials are extremely time consuming and outrageously expensive for both the prosecution and defense. It can also take years to actually get to trial, which results in defendants who cannot make bail being incarcerated for long periods of time. Most of the time, criminal charges are resolved by plea bargain.
What is a plea bargain?
A plea bargain is an agreement between the state and the defendant. The state is represented by the prosecution. The defendant may be represented by a criminal defense attorney or not represented by counsel at all. The state and the defendant or defense counsel negotiate a deal. These deals typically result in a shorter sentence for a plea of guilty or nolo contendre (no contest). Terms relating to things other than the length of punishment can also be included in a plea deal. These other terms might include the type of punishment one receives, (such as incarceration, probation or no punishment at all) and where that sentence is served. Plea bargaining is a way for all parties to benefit from working together. The prosecution gets to avoid trial and still gets a guilty plea. The defendant often benefits from a shorter and less rigid sentence.
Plea bargain agreements are not set in stone in all respects. Although they usually do, judges do not have to accept a plea deal. Part of the judge’s function is to make decisions regarding sentencing, and if a plea deal is out of line with what the judge thinks is appropriate, chances are the plea will be rejected. A defendant can withdraw their plea up until the court accepts it, after this point it is considered final. If the plea is accepted by the judge before it is withdrawn, the defendant cannot break the agreement unless they formally appeal.
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, plea bargaining might be an option. Depending upon the punishment you are facing, a plea deal can be very beneficial to you. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler are skilled in the art of plea bargaining. Call (609)267-1101 for a consultation today.