In the criminal justice system, the vast majority of defendants never take their cases to trial. Most charges are resolved through some form of plea bargain.
However, not all plea agreements are constructed alike. Knowing more about the types of plea deals that may be considered in your case can help you more fully participate in your own defense and make informed decisions about your future.
There are multiple bargaining chips
It’s possible to cut a deal regarding the nature of the charges against you, the number of “counts” or individual charges for each crime, the sentence you can face and even what information is given to the court. A lot of criminal charges can be raised or lowered depending on the facts of the case and the prosecutor’s inclinations. Charge bargaining allows you to potentially avoid more severe penalties and the collateral consequences of a higher-level offense, especially when the prosecution is willing to reduce a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor in exchange for your guilty plea.
Count bargaining often accomplishes similar results by reducing the overall number of charges you are facing. This might be the best route to take if you have been charged with multiple counts of the same offense, such as possession of drug paraphernalia. By consolidating the charges into a single count, you ultimately face less severe penalties upon pleading guilty.
Sentence bargaining focuses on securing a reduced sentence in exchange for your guilty plea. Prosecutors may be willing to give you a shorter prison term, probation instead of incarceration or even alternative sentencing options such as community service or rehab programs. This kind of deal eliminates the uncertainties you’d face if you’re convicted at trial.
Fact bargaining allows defendants to negotiate which elements of the crime will be considered by the court. By agreeing on certain facts, defendants can potentially limit the damage from certain kinds of evidence against them or seek a more favorable interpretation of events. It’s also not unusual for more than one type of bargain to be part of the deal. For example, a prosecutor may agree to both reduce the charges against you and give the court a specific sentence recommendation in exchange for your plea.
The types of plea bargains available to you can vary depending on the jurisdiction, the circumstances of your case and the discretion of the prosecutor – so, this is not something that you can navigate on your own. Seeking experienced legal guidance will place you in the strongest position to make informed decisions about your situation.