Even if a prosecutor's case against a defendant is strong, it is possible for the defense to obtain a plea bargain. This means that iif the defendant agrees to enter a guilty plea to a crime, the prosecution agrees to recommend a specific setence, most often reduced penalties.
If a plea deal is reached at the early stages of a criminal case, the defendant avoids having to go to trial and risk serving the maximum penalties. The courts typically favor plea deals due to the high caseload volume throughout the country and the amount of money it states the state in resources.
Courts use the following terms to describe different forms of plea bargaining:
- Charge bargaining – The defendant pleads to a crime that’s less serious than the original charge, or less serious than the most serious charges.
- Sentence bargaining – The defendant takes a guilty or no contest plea after the sides agree what sentence the prosecutor will recommend.
- Fact bargaining – The defendant pleads in exchange for the prosecution’s stipulation that specific facts led to the conviction, in return for an agreement not to introduce other facts into evidence.
Plea bargaining often takes place at virtually any stage in the criminal justice process. Plea deals can be reached shortly after a defendant is arrested and before the prosecution files criminal charges. Deals may also be struck as a jury returns to a courtroom to announce its verdict. Lastly, plea deals are sometimes struck after a defendant is convicted while a case is on appeal.
Although most types of crimes are eligible for plea bargaining, certain types of cases are not in California. Felonies invloving violence, sexual assault, and firearm use, as well as DUI, do not allow plea baraging.