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Understanding plea bargaining

On Behalf of | Dec 1, 2017 | Criminal Appeals

When defendants set out to argue their criminal cases in a Jacksonville courtroom, they typically do so with the ultimate goal of gaining an acquittal and/or an exoneration. However, somewhere along the pathway to completing this process, that goal may shift to earning the most favorable outcome that is possible. To do that, one may have to give some serious thought to plea bargaining. Such agreements are much more common in the American criminal justice system than most may think. According to information shared by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the 48,939 criminal offense cases heard in America’s largest 75 counties in 2009, 53 percent of felony cases ended in pleas.

Most may assume that plea bargaining must be initiated by a prosecuting attorney, yet that is not the case. Either side of a criminal case can commence such talks. Perhaps the reason that it is presumed that prosecutors typically are the ones seeking plea bargaining is because it may be believed that they are the side most benefitted by it. Indeed, the American Bar Association states that courts and prosecutors are motivated to avoid trials due to the time and expenses that they require. Yet the ABA also claims that plea bargaining also offers distinct advantages to defendants, such as:

  • Avoiding the cost of having to defend themselves
  • Not risking receiving a harsher sentence as the result of a trial
  • Avoiding the damage that the details shared at a trial can do to their reputations

One should keep in mind, however, that judges who impose sentencing are not bound to follow the recommendations made through a plea bargaining agreement. The option of plea bargaining should also not be pushed on one who rightly wants to prove his or her innocence.