Most criminal cases in the Central Valley area are resolved through plea agreements. Plea negotiations are a “routine” way for disposing of cases in the criminal justice system. Approximately 90 percent of criminal cases in both federal and state courts are resolved through plea bargaining.
Since plea bargaining is common practice in criminal courts, it is important to understand exactly what the process entails. Originally, plea bargaining was implemented in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a time saving process for reducing the load in criminal courts. However, by the 1920s, plea bargaining evolved to what we know today.
Understanding Plea Bargaining
Plea bargaining does not have a standard definition. It generally involves negotiations between a defendant and the prosecuting attorney during which a criminal charge or potential criminal charge is resolved without going to court. During a plea bargaining process, both parties agree to do something or avoid doing something with respect to a specific matter.
More specifically, a criminal defendant engages in plea bargaining with the prosecutor in order to reduce charges or sentences. The prosecutor has many options in exchange for a guilty plea:
- Reduce the original charges to less serious charges
- Drop collateral charges
- Assure the defendant of a lenient sentence
- Recommend a sentencing
- Remain silent at sentencing
Purpose of Plea Negotiations
The main reasoning we have plea negotiation is to save time and money by resolving criminal cases more quickly and avoiding unnecessary trials. Other reasons include:
- Reducing the defendant’s risk of a harsher punishment at trial
- Promises of immediate release from custody
- Shorter sentences
- Reduction in charges – especially when a felony is reduced to a misdemeanor
However, there are also some criticisms to plea bargaining, such as:
- Lack of balancing of bargaining power – prosecutors have considerably more power in the bargaining process than the defendant.
- The plea bargaining process happens so quickly that a criminal defendant attorney may not always get to take into full account the defendant’s best interest.
- Plea bargaining allows offenders to receive lighter punishment in exchange for guilty pleas.
Call an Experienced Central Valley Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone that you care about has been arrested or charged with a crime, it is important that you immediately hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help protect your legal rights and ensure that you have the best defense possible to avoid a criminal conviction.
For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with Central Valley criminal defense attorney Gurjit Srai, please call us at (209) 323-5558 or (559) 449-1447, or complete our online form.