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To plea bargain or not to plea bargain

If you're facing criminal charges, you have a few options available to you. You and your attorney can fight the charges, you can throw yourself at the mercy of the court or, if you're offered a plea bargain, you can accept it. A plea bargain is an agreement between you and the prosecutor; you agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or a more lenient sentence.

Plea bargains are very common. In fact, 90% of the criminal cases in the American legal system are resolved this way. Why?

  • Courts are usually backed up and are happy to clear a case off the docket without a trial.
  • Prosecutors typically have more cases than they can reasonably handle, so letting some go in this way clears up time for more serious cases.
  • You save money and time by not going through a lengthy trial.

In general, there are three types of plea bargains:

  1. Charge bargaining. You would plead guilty to a lesser charge and in exchange, a more serious charge would be dropped.
  2. Fact bargaining. Fact bargaining involves agreeing to some facts in the case in order to have other facts dismissed. These are rarely used in the courts.

No two cases are exactly alike. If you have a criminal defense attorney, he or she can analyze your case and help you decide the best course of action. Facing these charges alone can be stressful but also lead you to choosing the wrong path and decisions. An attorney may be able to guide you through the process.

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