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Colorado Innocence blog

What’s a Plea Bargain?

Plea bargaining is a way to resolve a case and avoid going to trial. Plea bargains usually occur when a defendant is confident he or she will be found guilty in a trial. Plea bargaining makes it possible to avoid the harshest penalties by pleading guilty to one or more charges that are usually less the one he or she would face in a trial. This can result in the dropping of the most severe charges and/or a more lenient sentence.

Plea bargains can not only be beneficial to the defendant, they can also benefit the prosecution. A plea bargain prevents a case from adding more weight to an already over-burdened judicial system and it guarantees the prosecution that the defendant will face at least some type of penalty. In a trial there is potential the defendant could be found not guilty of the most severe charges and face no penalty at all.

Pros and Cons of Plea Bargains

Obviously, there are pros and cons to accepting a plea bargain as a defendant. There is security in a plea bargain because there is an opportunity to negotiate, which is not an option in a trial. Most of the mystery is taken out of the process and the defendant gains some control and peace of mind.

Of course, plea bargaining is a gamble because there is always a chance that in a trial a defendant will be found not guilty. Taking a plea bargain waives the opportunity for the defendant to plead his or her case.

Plea bargains are also very difficult to appeal because they are voluntary. It’s not impossible, but once a defendant admits to the charges to accept the plea, a successful appeal is unlikely.

For more information about plea bargains and appeals, check out this information from the US Department of Justice.

How to Know If a Plea Bargain is Right in Your Case

You should take time to consider a plea bargain carefully and discuss the benefits and disadvantages in detail with your attorney. If you are innocent of the crime you committed, you might not want to take a plea bargain as a matter of principle because it means saying you were guilty. On the other hand, if the evidence against you is strong despite your innocence, a plea bargain can save you a great deal of punishment you do not deserve.

Your attorney will also be able to help you negotiate the best plea bargain. One of the biggest advantages of a plea bargain is the control it gives you over your circumstances. It’s not absolute control, but it’s more than you’d have in a trial.

There are three types of plea bargains you might have the opportunity to consider:

• Charge bargaining requires you plead guilty to a lesser charge so the more significant charges are dropped.
• Sentence bargaining requires you plead guilty in return for a lighter sentence. The judge, who is responsible for determining your sentence, has the authority to reject the plea, so this type of plea bargain comes with no guarantee. There might also be penalties required by law that cannot be altered, so it’s important for your attorney to consider these factors and determine how likely it is for your sentencing plea bargain to stand once you’ve entered into it.
• Fact bargaining requires you to stipulate certain facts in order to prevent other facts from being used as evidence against you. This is not always permitted and is the most uncommon type of plea bargain.

If you have been accused of a crime it’s important you seek the experienced guidance of an attorney as soon as possible. It might be possible to negotiate a plea bargain to make your situation better, but you should have the negotiating power of a criminal lawyer on your side.

For more information, contact David Lindsey to schedule a free consultation.

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David Lindsey, Attorney at Law

7887 East Belleview Avenue, Suite 1100
Englewood, CO 80111
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Phone: 303-228-2270
Fax: 303-228-2271

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Phone: 303-228-2270
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