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What is Plea Bargaining?

95% of all cases end in a plea-bargain. Plea-bargaining is an excellent way to avoid a potential stiff conviction in favor of an agreed upon lighter conviction. For instance, in a drug possession case, a judge may be convinced to dismiss the charges in return for the defendant's successful completion of a rehabilitation program. Some judges and prosecutors are amenable to plea-bargaining, whereas others are not. Plea bargaining enables the judges to move cases through the legal process, and prosecutors to rack up convictions.

Five things to ponder when considering a plea bargain:

  1. A judge-approved guilty or no contest plea bargain may result in a criminal conviction. The conviction will show up as a criminal record.
  2. The defendant may lose rights and privileges as if the defendant were convicted after trial.
  3. A no contest plea says "I don't choose to contest the charges".
  4. A guilty plea serves as an admission of guilt.
  5. A plea bargain may result in a lighter sentence and completes the matter quickly.

How to plea-bargain a good deal:

  1. The defense must show responsibility for the crime is minimal.
  2. The defense must show the impact of the crime elicited little damage.
  3. The defense must explain mitigating circumstances that led to the crime.
  4. The defense must establish weaknesses in the prosecutions case, such as lack of evidence or lack of witnesses or factual inconsistencies.
  5. The defense must establish good character on the part of the defendant. The crime was a departure from normal conduct.
  6. The prosecution and defense must mutually desire a reasonable settlement.
  7. The impact on the defendant's family or dependents would be a hardship.

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