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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

How plea negotiations work

Despite the number of court dramas on television that give the impression that virtually every case gets heard in court, that's far from the case. In fact, the large majority of criminal cases brought do not go to trial, but instead end with a plea bargain.

The plea negotiation progress generally involves the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge or charges and the prosecution, in exchange, recommending a lower sentence. That being said though, the presiding judge is not bound by the prosecution's request.

When it comes to who benefits from plea deals, most would argue both the prosecution and the defense. As for the government, they avoid a long and expensive trial. Both parties avoid having to worry about the uncertainty of a jury verdict. And, for the defendant, he or she is able to avoid mounting legal representation and court costs and a potentially more punitive sentence associated with proceeding with a jury trial.

Although there are some cases in which a plea deal that's drafted is subject to court approval prior to being entered into the record, this primarily only occurs when certain circumstances are present. In most cases in which a defendant pleads to a lesser offense after other charges have been dropped, plea deals are generally not subjected to the same type of scrutiny from the judge.

In the past, plea deals have long been negotiated behind closed doors, as part of a private process. That being said, in recent years, in some jurisdictions, victim's statutes have begun emerging. These statutes have been responsible for allowing victims of crimes to be afforded the right to give their opinion as to the acceptability of any plea agreement before it is accepted by the Court.

With that in mind, it's important to note that, as a component of a plea deal, in some cases, the prosecution may offer the option of pretrial diversion.This type of alternative sentencing allows the defendant to participate in an informal type of probation, in which the defendant is required to complete some type of rehabilitation and/or restitution process, as condition of the charges against them being dropped.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense, a Van Nuys, California criminal defense attorney can provide advice and guidance in your legal matter.

Source:, "How courts work - Steps in a trial - Plea bargaining," accessed March 09, 2017

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