What Is a Plea Bargain?

When you are talking about a plea bargain in a criminal case, you are usually referring to an agreement between a criminal defense lawyer and a prosecutor relating to an alleged offender agreeing to plead guilty or nolo contendere ("no contest") to a criminal charge in exchange for a reduction in or dismissal of certain charges or a specific sentence. People do not want to be negotiating plea bargains on their own, so you should always retain the services of a Charleston criminal defense attorney.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance reports that Bureau of Justice statistics estimate that between 90 and 95 percent of federal and state court cases reach resolutions through plea bargaining, and the Innocence Project reports that 97 percent of state and federal criminal cases reached resolutions through plea deals over the past 50 years whereas 20 percent of alleged offenders chose trials 30 years ago. The Cato Institute further notes that the Pew Research Center found that only two percent of 80,000 federal prosecutions went to trial, with over 97 percent of federal criminal convictions and 94 percent of state convictions happening through plea bargains.

How Plea Bargains Work

Criminal cases tend to clog courts throughout the country, so it is in the best interest of both prosecutors and alleged offenders to arrange plea bargains to resolve cases quickly rather than allow cases to extend for several months. A plea bargain can be a preferable result for both sides because neither one can have any certainty about what a trial outcome will be.

Plea bargains typically come in two forms: Charge bargaining and sentencing bargaining, and some cases may involve both. Charge bargaining refers to prosecutors agreeing to drop or reduce certain charges to less serious offenses in exchange for a plea by an alleged offender, while sentence bargaining refers to a prosecutor agreeing to recommend a lighter sentence for specific charges when an alleged offender agrees to plead guilty or no contest to them. 

Plea bargaining may occur at any stage of the criminal justice process, often beginning before an alleged offender has even made their first court appearance. While many plea deals reach agreements during the original criminal trials, there is also the possibility of plea deals being struck after cases of hung juries when prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers do not want to endure another trial.

When a person agrees to plead no contest to a criminal charge, they are effectively saying they do not want to contest the charges against them. While a no-contest plea will have much the same effect as a guilty plea, a no-contest plea will mean that the plea cannot be an admission of guilt in a civil case against the alleged offender.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Charleston Criminal Defense Attorney

Are you currently facing criminal charges for any kind of alleged crime in West Virginia? Make sure that you have experienced legal representation on your side and work with Cary Law Office for help negotiating the most favorable possible plea agreement for your case.

Our firm knows how to secure the most favorable possible agreements for alleged offenders in all kinds of criminal cases, so we can ensure that you are not agreeing to anything that will cause you harm later on. You can call (304) 804-6369 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation so we can completely review your entire case and discuss what options we can seek.