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Plea bargain basics and their importance

Understanding the basics of the plea bargain process is important for individuals who have been accused of a crime because the plea bargain process refers to a way that many criminal cases are decided rather than by going to trial. Depending on the circumstances, the basis for negotiating a plea agreement may vary, so it is helpful to be familiar with the different areas of negotiation related to plea agreements.

The first type of plea agreement may be based on a charge bargain. When charge bargaining, the accused individual may agree to a guilty plea to lesser charges they are facing in return for an agreement from the prosecutor to drop more serious charges the accused individual is also facing. Another common type of plea bargaining is sentence bargaining. Sentence bargaining refers to the accused individual's agreement to a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced sentence or reduced sentence recommendation to the judge in the case. Additional types of plea negotiations may also be possible.

Because plea bargaining can result in a waiver of certain criminal defense rights, and an agreement by the accused individual to plead guilty to at least some of the charges they are facing, it is important that plea bargain offers be carefully considered and plea negotiations carefully conducted. For the protection of the accused individual, guilty pleas require a knowing waiver of their rights from the accused individual and that the waiver of their rights also be voluntary. In addition, there must be a factual basis to support the accused individual's guilty plea.

The criminal justice system can seem complex and overwhelming at times, but it is important for accused individuals to always be familiar with it and the protections and options it affords them. Accused individuals should be familiar with their criminal defense rights, which includes the right to a trial but also plea options, so they can determine what is the best solution for them related to their criminal case.

Source:, "Plea Bargaining: Areas of Negotiation," Accessed April 24, 2018

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