If you are the target of a pre-file investigation (no formal charges have been filed yet), or if you have already been arrested for a crime, you may have imagined that you would have a trial by jury, but that may not be the case. In fact, your case may never make it to trial at all.
Why wouldn't you go to trial? It's because the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through what is called a "plea bargain."
Our courts are backlogged and prosecutors generally have too many cases to handle. With pressure from judges to move cases along quickly, prosecutors are often motivated to strike a "deal," especially when there's issues over witnesses or evidence.
Additionally, prosecutors like to win and losing makes them look bad. They'd much rather have some kind of a conviction on the record rather than risking losing at trial.
How Plea Deals Are Made
Seasoned criminal defense attorneys get to know local prosecutors. It's not uncommon for plea deals to be negotiated quickly and informally between defense counsel and the prosecutor. Of course, a plea deal is not official until the criminal defendant accepts it.
If the defense counsel knows that a plea bargain would be in his or her client's best interests, the defense attorney may urge their client to accept a deal. Often, explaining that if their case were to go to trial, the defendant would likely face much worse consequences. Also, most defendants will accept the plea deals that their defense lawyers recommend to them.
Where does the plea bargaining take place? Generally, the prosecutor and criminal defense attorney negotiate with each other, outside of the courtroom. The judge does not usually play a role in this process until the plea bargain is presented to him or her.
In some jurisdictions, however, judges urge both sides to negotiate a deal. Some judges will go so far as to facilitate negotiations in the judge's chambers. Occasionally, a judge will aid by explaining to the defense and the prosecution what type of sentence would be reasonable under the circumstances.
Is a Plea Bargain Right for You?
It depends on several factors, such as the nature of the crime, the available evidence, and your criminal record history. To learn more about the advantages of accepting a plea bargain, contact a Columbia criminal defense lawyer at Masella Law Firm, P.A. today!