Where you can plead guilty in exchange for a lower sentence after reaching an agreement with the prosecutor. A Plea bargain has become a fixture of the criminal justice system. It is a classic illustration of party control of the case: The prosecution and defendant negotiate a deal in which the defendant pleads guilty in return for certain concessions, typically the reduction of charges and/or the promise of a lighter sentence.
In a plea bargain, a defendant agrees to admit guilt, typically to a lesser charge, without going through a trial or before a trial has ended. Typically, a plea bargain results in a lesser penalty than that which a defendant would receive if the defendant were convicted of the most serious offense or offenses charged against him or her.
Plea bargains are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, but the Supreme Court has approved such plea bargains that are knowingly and fairly entered into and when the prosecutor does not exert undue coercion.
The two most common forms of plea bargains are:
- Sentence Bargain – Defendant pleads guilty in exchange for specific sentences
- Charge Bargain – Defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offense. In the case of DUI/DWI, the defendant can plead guilty to reckless driving.
If there is a plea bargain, the defendant must still appear in court so that the judge can determine that the plea was voluntary.