More than 90 percent of convictions in the U.S. occur without the defendant ever entering into a trial. This is because the majority of verdicts are determined through guilty pleas reached through plea bargains. Plea bargains are an agreement in a criminal case between the prosecutor and the defendant where the defendant usually pleads guilty to receive a shorter sentence. It’s important to know that plea bargains don’t follow the traditional definition of “justice.” Essentially, both sides of a criminal case come to a solution they can agree upon.
Types of Plea Bargains
In this case, the defendant pleads guilty to a less serious crime than what he or she was originally charged with. This is the most common form of plea bargaining. An example of this would be a defendant pleading guilty to manslaughter rather than murder.
Sometimes falling under the definition of charge bargaining, count bargaining occurs when the defendant pleads guilty to one or more charges, and the rest are dropped by the prosecution. For example, imagine a defendant were charged with burglary and aggravated assault. The prosecution and defense agree the defendant will plead guilty to assault and the burglary charge is dropped entirely.
In this scenario, the defendant pleads guilty after both the prosecution and defense agree on what sentence the prosecution will recommend. This type of plea bargain is more tightly controlled and far less common than charge bargaining partly because it can make sentences far less severe. For instance, a defendant may agree to plead guilty to reckless driving provided the prosecution agrees to recommend the judge not sentence jail time.
By far the least common form of plea bargaining, fact bargaining occurs when the defendant agrees with certain facts presented by the prosecutor to prevent other facts from being brought to light. In essence, the unexposed facts would have lengthened the sentence. However, many courts do not allow this type of bargaining.
Criminal Defense Attorneys in Vancouver, WA
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you want the best legal representation you can find to present your side of the story. Contact the attorneys of Northwest Legal Advocates to speak with former prosecutors who understand Washington state criminal law, plea bargaining and sentencing.