All You Need to Know about Plea Bargaining

All You Need to Know about Plea Bargaining

Google defines plea bargain in the simplest form as “an arrangement between prosecutor and defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge for a more lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges”.

The official report says 90% of both state and federal court cases of the USA resolve through plea bargains.

Both the prosecution and the defendant come to an agreement in a plea bargain without going to trial. Usually, the defendant pleads guilty to the charges and the opponent’s lawyer agrees to:

  • Reducing some charges


  • Recommending lighter punishment/sentence

Plea Bargain Guarantees Conviction

Plea bargain is a guaranteed conviction, whereas the result of a criminal trial is unpredictable and uncertain.

Guaranteed convictions secure the chances of reelections of the prosecutors as they can cite ‘tough on crime’ policies.

Plea Bargain Smoothens the System

Court trials are time consuming. They can bump out the other cases, even for years. Constant delays are financially and emotionally draining and during longer trial periods, the memory of the witnesses can fade away.

Plea bargains are less time consuming than court trials. Without plea bargain, the court system would come to a halt under its own weight.

What to Expect after Accepting a Plea Bargain?

Both the defendant and the prosecutor are bound to follow the rules of the approved plea agreement. Failure in following the rules can end the agreement.

Issues with Plea Bargain

Sometimes prosecutors can be blamed for violation of the plea agreement. This happens when a prosecutor files additional charges against the defendant even after promising not to do so as per the agreement.

A plea agreement should be drawn up carefully. It mustn’t force the defendant to surrender more than the necessary judicial rights.

A plea bargain adds charges of conviction in the permanent record of the defendant.

Felony plea deals diminish the chances of getting properties and jobs.

If the defendant has strong evidence of proving his/her innocence, then it’s advised to seek the help of an experienced attorney to take the case to trial. In trial cases, a defendant can save himself/herself from convictions.

Extralegal Characteristics

Extralegal characteristics can play an important role in reduced plea sentences. Extralegal characteristics such as race, age, gender, and socioeconomic status play a huge role in defining whether the prosecutor will shorten charges against the defendant through a plea bargain or not. In most cases, black people, younger people or male defendants are less likely to receive shorter conviction sentences.

A plea agreement may reduce the charges against the defendant, but the confirmed conviction can create issues. A defendant must discuss with a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney about the short and long-term consequences of the agreement.