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Understanding the steps in the plea negotiation process

One way that criminal cases can be resolved is through an agreement achieved through the plea negotiation process. Most criminal cases are resolved outside of court and without a trial using the plea negotiation process. Resolving criminal cases through the plea negotiation process can be beneficial for several reasons, keeping in mind it is helpful to have informed guidance about the process and criminal defense options when determining how to respond to criminal charges.

Plea bargains can help accused individuals and the prosecution save the time and cost of trial. They can also help an accused individual avoid a potentially harsher punishment and the potential publicity of going through the trial process. Both the accused individual and the prosecution can avoid the uncertainty of a trial which can be particularly unnerving for the accused individual. For practical purposes, plea bargains benefit the criminal justice and court system as a whole by reducing the strain on available resources.

Either the prosecution or the accused individual can begin plea negotiations. Typically, the accused individual agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge or fewer charges than were originally charged as part of a plea agreement. In addition, as part of plea bargain, the accused individual may plead guilty but the prosecution agrees to recommend leniency as part of the plea agreement. However, it is important to understand it is simply a recommendation to the court that the judge is not bound by.

Additional options, such as a diversion program, may also be available to accused individuals. Generally, according to a diversion program, the accused individual agrees to probation without a trial and if they successfully complete the requirements of their probation, which can vary, the charge will be removed. It is important for any accused individual to weigh the best course of action for them when facing criminal charges which can include a variety of criminal defense options.

Source: American Bar Association, "Steps in a Trial Plea Bargaining," Accessed Dec. 12, 2016

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