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Basics On Plea Bargaining


Criminal prosecution involves several stages. One of these stages is the “plea bargaining” stage. In most cases, plea bargains take the form of either reduced charges, a reduced sentence, or both, in exchange for a guilty plea. But a plea bargain can also involve a defendant pleading “no contest.”

Below is a more in-depth look at plea bargaining.

What Is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant. Plea bargaining generally involves the defendant pleading guilty or “no contest” and the prosecutor agreeing to;

  • reduce a charge to a less serious charge;
  • drop one or more charges;
  • recommend a lighter sentence.

Charge Bargaining and Sentence Bargaining

Often, plea bargaining is divided into two types. That is, charge bargaining and sentence bargaining. However, it is vital to note that plea bargaining can be broken into more categories.

Charge bargaining entails negotiating the charges a defendant will face at trial. Usually, charge bargaining involves a defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge. For example, if you are being charged with burglary, charge bargaining could entail you pleading guilty to trespassing and the prosecutor dismissing the burglary charges in return for your guilty plea.

On the other hand, in sentence bargaining, the defendant will plead guilty to the charges against them to receive a lighter sentence in return.

What Is a Guilty Plea?

Most plea bargains involve a defendant agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced charge and/or a lighter sentence. A guilty plea is when a criminal defendant admits they committed the crime they are being accused of committing. To plead guilty, a defendant has to appear before a judge and acknowledge that they committed the crime they are being accused of committing.

What Is a No-Contest Plea?

As mentioned earlier, plea bargaining can also involve a defendant agreeing to plead “no-contest.” So, what does it mean to plead no-contest? When a defendant pleads no-contest, they tell the court they don’t wish to fight the charges against them while refraining from admitting guilt. However, even though a no-contest plea does not involve admitting guilt, it results in a criminal conviction just like a guilty plea. Also, a no-contest plea will still show up in a criminal record.

Why Would a Defendant Plead No-Contest?

There are several reasons why a criminal defendant would plead no-contest. For instance, if a defendant faces the potential of a civil lawsuit, they may choose to plead no-contest. If a victim decides to sue a defendant in civil court, a no-contest plea cannot be used as evidence against the defendant.

Also, if a defendant cannot remember committing the offense because of an impairment, they might decide to plead no-contest.

When Can I Seek a Plea Bargain?

Plea bargaining can occur at any stage in the criminal justice process before a jury verdict is reached. However, plea bargaining often occurs early in the criminal justice process before a trial.

Contact a London Criminal Defense Attorney

It is best for you to talk to a criminal defense attorney before agreeing to a plea bargain. Contact a London criminal defense attorney at Cessna & George Law Firm to have your case reviewed.

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