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What should you know about plea bargains?

Residents of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, may find themselves in legal trouble. At times, that legal trouble may necessitate a criminal defense attorney, who may recommend a plea bargain.

Because plea bargains can have a direct impact on sentencing, it is valuable to understand some information about them.

What are plea bargains?

In criminal cases, the defendant and the prosecutor can make an agreement. It typically requires the defendant to plead guilty, in return for which he or she receives a lesser sentence or is charged with a lesser offense. It isn't the exoneration that the defendant presumably wants, nor the conviction for the greatest offense possible that the prosecutor presumably wants. Instead, it amounts to meeting somewhere between those two poles, with both sides getting the best outcome that they believe they can get.

Why are plea bargains allowed?

There are multiple reasons. One, courts are overwhelmed already, and don't want to have to shut their doors to cases because each takes inordinate time. Plea bargains can expedite the resolution of cases, allowing them to get through the court system faster and thus make way for other cases. Additionally, prosecutors want to focus on their most serious cases. Those take time that they don't want to waste on less serious cases, which is why they'll often agree to plea bargains in the less serious cases.

Why do defendants accept plea bargain agreements?

The answer is simple. If they don't, they are rolling the dice that they can beat a greater charge than the plea bargain involves, and failing to beat the greater charge will mean a stiffer sentence than they would get if they accepted the plea bargain.

What kinds of plea bargains are available?

Charge bargaining swaps a greater charge for a lesser one, based on the condition that the defendant pleads guilty to the lesser charge. Sentence bargaining leaves the charge unchanged, but guarantees a lesser sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. Fact bargaining involves the defendant stipulating to some facts in exchange for other facts not being introduced into evidence. Your attorney can advise you about whether any of these would work for you.

Source: FindLaw, "Plea Bargains: In Depth," accessed July 27, 2017

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