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5 things to know about plea bargains in criminal cases

People in the movies and on television who face criminal charges usually go through a trial. In reality, trials account for only a small percentage of criminal case resolutions. Consider these points about a plea deal before you decide the suitability of one in your case.

#1: Reasons vary for plea deals

The prosecution and the defense can benefit from a plea deal. Either side can open a discussion about a possible plea deal. This is usually a faster and less costly method of resolution for a criminal case. Trials are often uncertain for both sides since juries can be rather unpredictable. Having a plea deal ready takes out the uncertainty.

#2: Terms are negotiable

Your defense team and the prosecution work together to come to the terms of a plea deal. You have a say in what happens. This gives you, as well as the prosecutor, control over the outcome of the case. Some people facing criminal charges find this preferable since it allows them to plan for the sentence they receive. Be sure you understand all the terms of the agreement before you make your decision.

#3: Three types of plea deals

There are three types of plea deals; however, only two are commonly used. Fact bargaining is the least common of the options. This involves you agreeing to specific facts in exchange for the prosecution not bringing up specific facts. The other two types work hand-in-hand. These are charge bargaining and sentence bargaining. Charge bargaining allows you to try to get a lesser charge than your original charge. Sentence bargaining enables you to try to minimize the sentence you will face.

#4: Victims might have a say in the plea bargain

Plea deals aren't always only between you and the prosecution. Victim advocacy groups are starting to involve victims increasingly in the plea bargain process. The victim, or the family members representing the victim, might have input about the plea bargain. This could make the process a bit more complex.

#5: Other options might be possible

Alternative sentencing programs like drug court are sometimes possible. This adds another option to the trial vs. plea deal debate. Before you decide about a plea deal, find out if you have any other options. If you learn of other options, you can weigh those into your final decision about the course and resolution of your case.

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