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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

The different ways of negotiating a plea deal

When a client is charged with a crime, it's not all that uncommon that a prosecutor will offer a defendant a plea deal in order to avoid having to chance a case by taking it to trial. At the same time, for clients, they tend to take plea offers because of their potential to face reduced charges or more predictable sentences in doing so.

It's important to note that all plea deals are not the same, though. Instead, plea bargaining centers around negotiation. Deals that are ultimately extended to defendants center tend to take on one of three forms: fact, charge and sentencing bargaining.

Although infrequently used, fact bargaining involves a prosecutor and defendant coming to an agreement as to the admission of certain facts and omission of others. Prosecutors rely on this type of plea bargaining as a way to have a defendant admit to certain details in a case as fact without them having to go about proving them.

Charge bargaining is one of the most common types of plea deals. This type of negotiating generally involves a prosecutor and defense attorney attempting to get charges downgraded to lesser ones.

In contrast, sentence bargaining involves a defendant agreeing to plead guilty to the original charges. The defendant's incentive to do this is that he or she receives a more definitive, and in many cases lighter, sentence for doing so. At the same time, prosecutors avoid having to put in the effort to prove a case at trial, which builds good will.

One important aspect of plea deals to keep is mind is that they're not guaranteed to be accepted by the judge presiding over the case. Instead, a prosecutor can only make a recommendation to judge that they accept it.

It's important to keep in mind that many of the short-term benefits associated with plea deals, such a reduction in sentencing, may come at the expense of other, more debilitating, long-term penalties. This is why it's important that you review your case with a Van Nuys criminal defense attorney in order to better understand whether a plea deal is in your own best interest prior to accepting one.

Source:, "Plea bargaining: Areas of negotiation," accessed June 02, 2017

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