Almost all criminal proceedings of any severity will involve plea bargaining. Of course, whether or not it is in the defendant’s interest to take a plea bargain depends on the case. However, because plea bargaining is so common it is important for you to understand the basics.
Bargaining has 3 areas of negotiation. According to FindLaw, these areas include charge bargaining, sentence bargaining and fact bargaining.
What is charge bargaining?
Charge bargaining is by far the most common and well-known kind of plea bargaining. Charge bargaining is where the defendant willfully enters a guilty plea for a lesser charge so as to avoid potential more serious charges. For example, a defendant may plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of assault to avoid a felonious aggravated assault charge.
Charge bargaining can be beneficial for defendants, but is not always a good idea. For instance, accepting a lesser charge may put the defendant on a sex offender list whereas taking the case to trial may result in a “not guilty” verdict. Understanding all of the facts pursuant to your case is vital.
What are sentence and fact bargaining?
Sentence bargaining is when the defendant agrees to plead guilty to charges in return for a lesser sentence. It is similar to charge bargaining; however, with sentence bargaining the actual charges do not change.
Fact bargaining is not very common, but it does occasionally happen. Fact bargaining has the defendant admitting to specific facts. This eliminates the need for the prosecution to prove those facts. In return, the prosecution agrees to not introduce other facts into the case that could potentially be incriminating.