Many criminal cases in California are resolved through plea bargaining. A plea bargain is a negotiated deal for the defendant to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges or a lighter sentence.
Areas of negotiation
There are three main areas of the criminal case that can be negotiated in a plea bargain. These areas are:
When a defendant negotiates charges, they may agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge rather than going to trial on a higher charge. Sentence bargaining involves an agreement to plead guilty to a charge in exchange for the promise of a reduced sentence.
Fact bargaining is the least common form of plea bargaining. With fact bargaining, the prosecution agrees to omit certain facts from court proceedings if the defendant will admit to other facts.
Where does plea bargaining happen?
Plea bargaining almost never involves the judge. Plea deals are usually reached through telephone or in-person communication between the prosecuting attorney and the defendant’s criminal law attorney. While the judge is not obligated to sign off on a plea deal, the judge usually accepts the prosecution’s recommendation.
Things to consider before plea bargaining
Reaching a plea bargain means that the defendant has surrendered their right to plead innocent to their criminal charges and go to trial. If you are considering a plea bargain, it’s important that you consider whether you have a chance to win your case in a trial. You and your attorney should look at all of the facts in your case to determine if plea bargaining is your best option.