Plea Agreements Generally

Plea Agreements Generally

When a defendant has been charged with a crime, it is his decision whether to enter a guilty or not guilty plea to the offense. Often times, a defendant enters a guilty plea based upon a plea agreement. Many prosecutors offer defendants plea agreements or bargains in order to ascertain a guilty plea from the defendant. Usually plea agreements fall into one of the following categories: defendant pleads to a reduced or lesser charge, defendant pleads guilty to one offense for the dismissal of another offense, or defendant pleads guilty in return for a sentencing concession.

The prosecution can make its plea agreement contingent upon defendant’s performance of certain conditions. For example, a prosecutor could make the plea agreement contingent on the defendant’s cooperation with the prosecution so that the prosecution may obtain a conviction against another.

Prosecution’s Decision to Plea Bargain

The prosecution may choose to take a particular case to trial or to offer a plea bargain. From the prosecutor’s perspective, a defendant does not have a right to a plea bargain; instead, it is a privilege that the prosecutor may extend under appropriate circumstances. In determining whether to plea bargain, the prosecutor will consider the factors listed below:

  • Criminal history and background.
  • Nature and type of offense.
  • Recommendations from police, investigators, or other professionals.
  • Plea guidelines.
  • Cooperation on behalf of defendant.
  • In the interest of justice.

Defendant’s Decision to Enter a Guilty Plea and Accept a Plea Bargain

It is the defendant’s decision whether to enter a guilty plea or not. Defendant’s counsel is required to inform him of whether the plea bargain is in the defendant’s best interest or whether the defendant would be better off proceeding to trial. The ultimate to decision in whether to accept the plea bargain is with the defendant.

Factors affecting the defendant’s decision of whether to accept a plea bargain are as follows:

  • Deal offered by the prosecution.
  • Whether defendant is guilty or innocent of the offense charged.
  • Likelihood of success at trial.
  • Consequences of entering a guilty plea.
  • Publicity surrounding case and the defendant’s remorse.

Enforcement of Plea Agreements

If a prosecutor enters into a plea agreement with an accused and fails to honor that agreement, the court may permit the accused to withdraw their guilty plea, upon the accused’s request. The defendant is also required to honor the terms of the plea agreement. If either party opts not to honor the terms of the plea agreement, the court will not enter the agreement.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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