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What do I need to know about plea deals?

When you are facing criminal charges, the outcome of your case is likely one of your biggest concerns. In approximately 90 percent of all criminal cases, a plea bargain is what ultimately ends the case. No matter what type of charges you are facing, even if you are facing theft-related charges, you should know about the pros and cons of plea bargaining.

What is a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is a deal that the defense and prosecution come to in order to resolve a case. In most cases, the defendant pleads guilty to the original charge or a lesser charge in exchange for a specific sentence. These deals must be approved by a judge, so they aren't a sure thing until the court approves.

What can be negotiated in a plea bargain?

Several points can be negotiated in a plea bargain. You can negotiate the facts of the case, the sentence that will be handed down and the charge you will plead guilty to. A combination of these points can be used in a plea bargain. For example, a defendant might agree to plead guilty to manslaughter instead of murder in exchange for the lightest sentence possible for manslaughter.

Plea bargains aren't without cons. You might agree to one sentence but the judge hands down a different sentence. It is important to discuss the pros and cons of a plea agreement before you agree to it. Knowing exactly what a plea deal entails and what might change when it is presented to the court might help you to decide if you want to accept the plea bargain.

Source: FindLaw, "Plea Bargains: In Depth," accessed May. 21, 2015

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