Today, the American Constitution Society states that more than 95% of all criminal cases result in a plea bargain, and you may have considered this option if you are facing charges for a crime. A plea bargain is a legally binding agreement established between a prosecutor and the defendant involving a guilty plea in exchange for a specified outcome.
If you decide to take a plea bargain, the prosecutor on your case can agree to drop the charges or reduce the charges to a less serious offense. The main benefit of taking a plea bargain is that the outcome of the criminal case is predictable, whereas the outcome of a trial is usually not. You may also choose to take a plea bargain to speed up the resolution of your case.
The primary two types of plea bargains
There are two main types of plea bargains for criminal offenses: charge bargaining and sentence bargaining. Prosecutors can agree to reduce or drop certain charges to make them less serious in exchange for a plea bargain in charge bargaining situations. In sentence bargaining situations, you can plead guilty to specific charges in exchange for a lighter sentence.
You can develop and accept a plea bargain at nearly any stage of the criminal justice process. For example, you can choose to take a plea bargain shortly after arrest or as late as when the prosecutor moves to file criminal charges. Depending on the circumstances regarding the criminal trial, you may also decide to take a plea deal after conviction if you move to appeal your case.
The effect on your criminal record
If you take a plea bargain, the criminal conviction appears the same as it would on your record as if you had gone to trial. You will also lose any privileges or rights, like the right to vote, that you would have forfeited if you decided to take your case to trial.