Plea Bargain

It is of the absolute importance that each of us become familiar with the laws and the terminology associated with said laws as they can have a drastic impact on not only our lives, but the lives of our family and friends in a New York minute. This segment of Know Your Rights, Know the Process covers plea bargains and sentencing after the plea bargain or trial begins.

Plea bargain-Many cases are resolved out of court by having both sides come to an agreement.  This process is known as a plea or plea bargain, which in most jurisdictions resolves the criminal case filed.

Defendants can avoid the time and costs of defending themselves at trial, the risk of harsher punishment if found guilty at trial, and any potential negative publicity a trial could involve.

In a plea bargain, both sides are spared the uncertainty of going to trial, and the court system is saved the burden of conducting a trial for every crime committed.

Either side may begin the negotiations over a proposed plea bargain, though obviously both sides have to agree before such is granted. Plea bargaining usually involves the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge with the prosecution recommending leniency in sentencing; the judge, however, is not bound to follow the prosecution’s recommendation.

97% of all federal cases and 94% of state cases end in plea bargains, in which defendants plead guilty to a lesser sentence.

The disadvantage of Plea Bargaining

Defendants are sometimes pressured into waiving their constitutional right to trial when taking a plea bargain. The defendant gives up his or her rights to potentially being  vindicated by a "not guilty " verdict.

Sentencing after plea bargain or trial 

A sentencing hearing is where an offender is given a sentence by a judge.  It may take place after an offender has plead guilty or, has been found guilty.  Sometimes, it may take days, weeks, or months afterward before the sentencing is pronounced. Depending on the charge or plea, sentencing does not always mean jail or prison time.

Judges may typically consider critical factors when making decisions regarding sentencing which may include but not be limited to the following:

  • The Defendants past criminal history
  • age
  • sophistication
  • The criminal circumstances under which the crime was committed
  • whether the defendant generally feels remorse. 

Next up, what you need to know about the appeals process.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 12/23/2020

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