What is Plea Bargaining
Plea bargaining is also known as case settlement. Both refer to the resolution of a case without a trial through negotation between the defense and the prosecution. For instance, charges may be dropped, sentences may be determined by the defense and the prosecution, open cases may be combined with probation violations. In some instances a defendant may agree to plead guilty or no contest to one or more charges and the prosecutor agrees to drop some charges, reduce one or more of the charges to a less serious offense or to recommend a sentence of a particular term.
Negotiations concerning the charges against a defendant are referred to as charge bargaining. Negotiations concerning the sentence is referred to as sentencing bargaining. For example, in exchange for a plea of no contest to one count in a complaint, the DA may agree to dismiss a second count. Sentence bargaining includes reducing or dismissing one or more charges. Many defendants do not exercise their constitutional right to a trial, pleading guilty or no contest at or before a trial date. The time when plea bargaining occurs depends on the local practice. It may take place on a day scheduled by the court for a pretrial hearing or conference or it may take place outside court at a time arranged between defense counsel and the prosecutor. It is important that your attorney is familiar with the local custom and practice of plea bargaining in the jurisdictiion where a defendant is being charged.
If a trial has begun, generally case settlement has been exhausted, however on the eve of trial the parties may reevaluate the case, a material witness may not be available or recant or either party may determine to have further discussion regarding settlement.
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