What Is Plea Bargaining?

What Is Plea Bargaining? Image


What Is Plea Bargaining?

In the criminal justice system, many convictions do not receive full trials. In fact, only fewer than ten percent of cases go to trial. The rest will experience some form of plea bargaining.  Plea bargaining is a negotiation that occurs when the accused pleads that they are legally guilty. Given this guilty plea, the lawyers will then negotiate in order to reduce an offense to a lesser one, have the charge dropped, or receive a less severe sentence for a given crime.

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Plea Bargaining In California

California has an interesting history with plea bargaining. The practice comes with quite a few criticisms in many jurisdictions for reasons such as plea bargaining being used not for its intended purpose, but rather to free up the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system. However, in California, the people acted on their dislike of plea-ing down a conviction, and attempted to ban the practice in 1982. In reality what did occur was the passing of Proposition 8, which outlawed plea bargaining in cases of a violent sex crime, an armed felony, a serious felony, or for driving under the influence (DUI). In almost every other case, the accused will choose one of the aforementioned forms of plea bargaining, potentially reducing their punishment or charge, and not having to endure a long and costly trial.


In cases where plea bargains are an option, it is imperative for the accused to be represented by a lawyer. While the choice to plead guilty will always be made by the defendant, almost all of the negotiating happens between the lawyers. Furthermore, once a plea is reached between the defendant and the prosecutor, it still has to be presented and proven in court in front of a judge. Therefore, in all scenarios, a lawyer will help you negotiate the best deal, and prove the merits of said deal.

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