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What should I know about plea bargains in criminal cases?

Criminal justice cases don't always go as they appear to occur on television and in the movies. In fact, it is estimated that less than 10 percent of criminal cases actually go to a trial. Many criminal cases, estimated at more than 90 percent of cases, are resolved through the use of plea bargains. These agreements between the defense and the prosecution are actually very interesting for people who take the time to learn about them.

What is considered in a plea bargain?

Interestingly, actual innocence or guilt isn't actually considered in a plea bargain. Instead, what a person is willing to say they did is what is factored into a plea bargain. Each party that is part of the plea bargain has certain incentives to work on a deal that is accepted by all parties. For judges, plea bargains lighten the docket. For prosecutors, plea bargains allow them to focus on more serious cases. For defendants, plea bargains give them some control over the outcome of the case and can sometimes lead to lesser charges and less serious sentences.

Should I accept a plea bargain?

Whether you should accept a plea bargain or not depends on the circumstances of your case. The evidence that is being used against you is one of these factors. If the evidence is overwhelming, a plea deal might be in your best interest. If you are concerned about whether to accept a plea bargain or not, be sure to speak to your lawyer about the alternatives. There isn't any one-answer-fits-all reply to plea bargain questions.

Source: FindLaw, "Plea Bargain Pros and Cons," accessed Oct. 13, 2016

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