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What is plea bargaining in a criminal case?

For some criminal defendants in New York, navigating the criminal law system can be challenging. Whether it is their first criminal charge or they have faced other allegations in the past, defendants should be fully aware of their rights and legal options so they can take proper action to protect their interests. Furthermore, the accused should exercise their right to develop a unique defense for every charge they face, which could help reduce or dismiss some or all of the crimes they have been charged with.

Most defendants are aware that they have several options when it comes to defending a criminal charge, but some question what a plea bargain is and how it could help them in their criminal case. A plea bargain is a form of negotiation and could help the accused obtain reduced charges and endure lesser penalties.

How does a plea bargain work? Plea bargaining is used to negotiate the terms of a charge, sentence or facts of the case. The prosecution and defense could negotiate the specific charges or crimes the defendant will face. This could involve the defendant taking a guilty plea for the dismissal of a higher charge or other charges.

With regards to sentencing bargaining, a negotiation could take place to reach an agreement of a guilty plea and a lighter sentence. This saves the prosecution from going to trial and this provides the defendant with a lesser penalties.

Fact bargaining is not used as often, but it involves the admission of certain facts or stipulations so they could eliminate the need of trying to prove them in court. This is often agreed to in return for the defense not entering certain facts into evidence.

Defendants should understand that there are three essential components involved in a plea bargain. First, they need to knowingly waive their rights. Next, it must be a voluntary waiver. Lastly, there must be factual basis available to support the charges that the defendant is pleading guilty to. If these three components do not exist, then a valid plea bargain did not occur.

Determining the best criminal defense is not an easy task for defendants. They should be fully aware of their options and rights so they can develop a defense strategy that will be in their best interest. Whether it is going to trial or making a plea bargain, those accused of a crime should chose the criminal defense that will work best for them.

Source: Criminal, findlaw.com, "Plea Bargaining: Areas of Negotiation," accessed on Dec. 8, 2014

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