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What is negotiated during a plea bargain?

Plea bargaining is an important aspect of the criminal justice system. If you are charged with a crime, however, you may wonder what a plea bargain entails. In general, plea bargaining is a negotiation that involves the prosecutor and the defendant. Plea bargaining may result in lesser charges or fewer charges, a lesser sentence or may address facts associated with the case and the allegations against the accused party.

There are three general areas of negotiation during plea bargaining. One type of plea negotiation is referred to as charge bargaining. Charge bargaining involves negotiation of the specific criminal charges the defendant is facing. Charge bargaining typically involves the dismissal of more serious charges in return for the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge. Another type of common plea negotiation is sentence bargaining. Sentence bargaining refers to the defendant's agreement to plead guilty to the charge they are facing in return for a reduced sentence. Fact bargaining is the third type of plea negotiation and is less common; it includes admission of certain facts to prevent their presentation in court.

For a plea agreement to be valid, the defendant must knowingly and voluntarily waive their rights and there must be a factual basis for the charges they are facing. The plea negotiation process can be complicated, but it has important implications for the rights of the defendant. As is true of most aspects of the criminal justice process and criminal defense rights, plea negotiations can also have important implications on the future and freedom of the defendant.

Plea negotiations are important for individuals accused of crimes and are an important part of the criminal justice system as a whole. Understanding how the plea negotiation process works, understanding how it affects the defendant's rights, and having the proper guidance and an effective strategy is important when negotiating a plea bargain.

Source:, "Plea Bargaining: Areas of Negotiation," Accessed April 12, 2016

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