The majority of criminal cases are resolved through a "plea bargain", usually well before the case ever reaches trial. Many have heard this term, but only a few have a good understanding of what a plea bargain actually is. So what is it?
In a plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty, usually to a lesser charge than one for which the defendant could stand trial, in exchange for a more lenient sentence. A lenient sentence may include the government agreeing to suspend all of the jail time on a particular charge, in exchange for a defendant agreeing to engage in some sort of treatment (i.e. alcohol/drug treatment, mental health treatment etc.), community service or other court ordered conditions. Many times a plea bargain includes an agreement in which the government agrees to dismiss certain related charges. For both the defendant and the government, the decision to enter into a plea bargain is based on the seriousness of the alleged crime, the evidence in the case, and the likeliness of a guilty verdict at trial. Plea bargains are generally encouraged by the courts and are necessary due to the sheer number of criminal cases that are filed each year.
A plea bargain in itself is essentially an agreement in a criminal case between the defendant and the prosecutor, which usually involves the defendant pleading guilty to a crime in order to receive a lesser sentence. In most cases, judges are respectful and appreciative of the fact that the parties involved have worked out a resolution without having to go through a costly trial. Therefore, a judge will typically follow the recommendation made by the parties at the time of sentencing, unless a plea involves a non-agreed sentencing recommendation.
The question of whether a plea bargain actually benefits society is often asked, but there are many justifications for the reason why the majority of the criminal cases are resolved by way of a plea. These justifications include the fact that the courts are crowded and if plea bargains were not allowed, it could overwhelm the entire court system. Additionally, prosecutors' caseloads are also overloaded and less trials means that the prosecutor can effectively prosecute the most serious cases that come through the system. Last, defendants save time and money by not having to defend themselves at trial and most times gain certain benefits by accepting a plea offer.
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.