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What can be negotiated during plea bargaining?

Mississippi defendants may be able to resolve their cases through plea bargaining. A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant on the charges, sentence or facts associated with the defendant's case. The goal of plea bargaining is typically to avoid trial, have charges dismissed or to receive a lesser sentence. The seriousness of the crime, the allegations and evidence and the chances of a guilty verdict are all factors.

There are generally three areas of plea negotiation: charge bargaining, sentence bargaining and fact bargaining. Charge bargaining involves the defendant's plea of guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for the dismissal of a higher charge. Sentence bargaining involves the defendant's plea of guilty to the charge against him or her in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Fact bargaining is the least commonly used. It involves the defendant admitting to certain facts (thereby alleviating the prosecutor's burden of proving those facts) in exchange for the prosecutor's agreement to not introduce other facts into evidence.

For a plea bargain to be valid, the defendant must knowingly and voluntarily waive his or her rights and there must be a factual basis to support the defendant's guilty plea. The plea must be accepted by a judge in the presence of the defendant and placed on the record in open court. A defendant may or may not choose to enter into a plea bargain as part of their criminal defense strategy. There are many considerations for a defendant in deciding whether to accept the terms of a plea negotiation; these will be discussed in a future post.

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