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What are the basics about plea bargains?

Many instances of accusations related to criminal charges result in plea bargains as part of the criminal justice system. As part of a plea bargain, the accused individual agrees to plead guilty to some or all of the charges they are facing in exchange for concessions from the prosecutor in charge of the case, such as a reduced sentence. Plea bargains are primarily viewed as an expedient method of handling cases for the criminal justice system and are very common.

To reduce the punishment the accused individual will receive, a plea bargain may include fewer charges or lesser charges than the ones the accused individual was originally charged with. In addition, the prosecutor may recommend a reduced sentence to the judge for the accused individual in exchange for a plea bargain. The role of judges in the plea bargaining process varies by jurisdiction and circumstances.

The plea bargaining process may sometimes cause concerns because it requires the accused individual to waive certain important rights, including the right to a jury trial, the right to confront witnesses against them and the right against self-incrimination. As a result, it is important to understand the plea bargaining process and how it applies to your case, situation and circumstances. Plea bargains must also be entered into voluntarily and the accused individual must understand the consequences of the plea bargain.

Plea bargains, based on plea negotiations with the prosecution, are considered contracts and if broken an accused individual may be permitted to withdraw a guilty plea, the prosecutor may have to offer some other plea arrangement or the judge may assign some other remedy. Plea bargains can be beneficial to accused individuals in some circumstances, but because of their implications there are important protections associated with plea bargains for the accused individual to be aware of and fully understand.

Source: Cornell University School of Law Legal Information Institute, "Plea Bargain," Accessed Oct. 10, 2016

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