What Are Plea Bargains And How Do They Work?
Being charged with a crime is a life event that no one wants to experience, especially when a possible conviction will include an incarceration term. Other forms of punishment such as fines and parole are also difficult periods in life that can lead to other complications in the future and allow the problem to linger into other areas of life, including being denied employment or housing in some instances. The result can be devastating. The problem is that most defendants will be punished in some manner because the system is designed to advantage prosecutors, which can be supported by the mere conviction rate numbers. However, the possibility for a reduced charge or lessened sentence is available when the defendant retains an experienced defense attorney who can negotiate a plea bargain with the court system officials.
The court systems in every state are crowded to the point that prosecutors want to process cases as effectively as possible as quickly as possible. The problem is that all defendants have specific rights that include taking a case to a full trial when the evidence being used is weak or frivolous. Grand juries are often easy to persuade in terms of issuing indictments, and police officers are required to charge anyone when there is probable cause a crime has been committed. However, reasonable doubt can exist in many cases. In those weaker evidence cases, prosecutors are often open to accepting a guilty plea from a defendant in exchange for a case alteration or even a deferred prosecution is some cases.
The first type of plea bargain is a reduction in the level of charges. This can justify a prosecutor’s recommendation of a lesser sentence and fine to avoid taking a case to a full trial. A charge bargain can be a good outcome is a solid case because the level can be reduced one step, including a low-level felony being reduced to a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor jail sentences are all served locally in county facilities with all sentences being one year or less. Felonies always carry a potential of over one-year incarceration, not to mention higher fines and being forced into the parole system for release. Misdemeanors can also result in probation with no jail sentence if the probation period is completed successfully.
Sentence bargaining typically occurs in cases where the state will more than likely be able to prosecute on strong evidence that could result in a harsh jail term from a jury. The plea bargain guarantees the defendant will receive no more jail time than the prosecutor recommends if the judge will accept the plea and prosecutor recommendations. This is easily the common outcome of a case that is supported by solid evidence of criminal activity but can still be applied when a defendant is also willing to provide testimony in support of the state’s claim of criminal activity. This possibility is also why prosecutors will charge associates with criminal activity along with the principle defendants they really want to prosecute, as personal testimony is often necessary for proper punishment of those centrally engaged in committing crimes.