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Advantages and Disadvantages of Plea Bargaining: Read This Before You Negotiate a Plea Deal

Plea bargaining is used by defendants and prosecutors alike for a number of reasons. In the Texas justice system, the advantages to plea bargains include:

  • Saves the expenses involved with a court trial
  • Defendant can receive a lesser sentence than if found guilty
  • Helps reduce the backlog of cases in the court system
  • The outcome can be predicted, which is not possible if there is a trial

Types of Plea Bargains

There are basically three types of plea bargains that are used to help mitigate a sentence:

  • Count bargaining: Allows the accused to plead to a lesser number of charges
  • Charge bargaining: An individual pleads to a lesser-included offense
  • Sentence bargaining: The prosecutor offers a much lighter sentence than what would normally be imposed

In addition, a plea bargain could require the defendant to perform certain other actions such as cooperating with an investigation, testifying against a co-defendant or turning over certain evidence. This agreement is legally binding on both parties; however, the terms of the agreement must be approved by a judge before they are effective.

Components of a Plea Bargain

In order for a valid plea agreement to take place, there are certain things that must be present. The accused must knowingly and voluntarily waive the right to a jury trial. There must also be probable cause to support the charges to which the defendant is pleading guilty. The district attorney may be required to show some of the evidence against a suspect when asking the judge to approve a plea deal.

Plea bargains are hashed out behind closed doors between a limited number of people. Typically, only the defendant, his lawyer and the district attorney are present during these meetings. Crime victims are not present, but they are sometimes offered a say in the process. Only after an agreement has been made are details surrounding it made available to members of the public.

Broken Deals

If a defendant fails to comply with the terms, the agreement is no longer effective, and that individual could then be subject to harsher sentencing guidelines. If a prosecutor fails to honor a plea deal, the accused can ask that the agreement be set aside or that a judge compels the district attorney to comply with it.

Before a criminal defendant agrees to a plea bargain, it is important for him or her to fully understand the conditions of the agreement and the consequences of breaking the deal. A qualified criminal lawyer can help a legal client with the entire plea bargaining process.

To hear more about the advantages and disadvantages of plea bargaining, those in Houston and the surrounding areas can contact attorney Shahin Zamir at 713-223-8900.