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A Basic Understanding of Plea Bargains

Jan. 4, 2018

Up to 90 percent of criminal cases in Florida and throughout the U.S. are resolved by plea bargaining. Plea bargains are attractive for some defendants because they allow them to get a lighter sentence. For prosecutors, plea bargains save time and energy that can be focused on more serious matters. As a general rule, the courts don’t mind if the parties involved in a case can resolve it on their own.

In fact, the courts may not be able to resolve cases in a timely manner if they were forced to handle every criminal matter that arose. In most cases, plea bargains are classified as charge bargains. In exchange for pleading guilty to a lesser charge, more serious charges will be dropped. It may be possible for a person to plead guilty in trade for a lighter sentence.

Some have argued that a plea bargain is not justice in the purest sense of the word. For some, it’s an opportunity to deflect blame for whatever they did. Others might take a plea bargain because they fear what will happen if they don’t. Generally speaking, a plea bargain is not an admission of guilt or innocence. Instead, it may be an acknowledgment of the strength or weakness of a given case against a defendant.

Individuals who face criminal charges of any kind may be sent to jail, fined or given a variety of other penalties if convicted. However, it’s possible for an attorney to take steps in an effort to potentially reduce or eliminate those penalties. Casting doubt on witness testimony or working to have evidence suppressed may increase the odds of a plea bargain or acquittal. A plea bargain could allow an individual to avoid jail time or more serious consequences.