Criminal Defense in Ventura County
The Basics of a Plea Bargain

The Basics of a Plea Bargain

A plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest.

In exchange for an agreement, the prosecutor must do either of the following:

  • Drop one or more charges
  • Reduce a charge to a less serious offense
  • Recommend to the judge a specific sentence acceptable to the defense

Plea bargaining is considered very common. In fact, over 90 percent of convictions are derived from negotiated pleas, while less than ten percent of criminal cases end up going to trial.

In general, plea deals are encouraged by the court system. Since criminal courts are more crowded than ever before, prosecutors and judges alike feel immense pressure to move cases quickly through the system. Although criminal trials can take days, weeks, and even months, guilty pleas can typically be arranged in a matter of minutes.

The following are the common types of plea bargaining methods:

  • Charge bargaining – A method of plea bargaining where prosecutors agree to drop charges or reduce a charge to a less serious offense in exchange for a plea by a defendant.
  • Sentence bargaining – A method in which the prosecutor agrees to recommend a lighter sentence for certain charges if the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to them.
  • Fact bargaining – A method in which the defendant pleads in exchange for the prosecutor’s stipulation that specific facts led to the conviction. The omitted facts would have increased the sentence due to the sentencing guidelines.

While most criminal offenses are eligible for plea bargaining in California, some serious felonies are banned from reaching a plea deal. Serious felonies include certain violent sex crimes, any felony which involved the commission of a firearm by the defendant, and any offense of driving while under the influence. However, bargaining could only be done with such crimes when there is no sufficient evidence to prove the people’s case, the testimony of a material witness cannot be obtained, or a reduction or dismissal would not lead in a significant change in sentence.

Although the thought of a plea deal and a lighter sentence is appealing, there can be negative consequences for entering a plea deal. A guilty or no contest plea entered as a judge-approved plea bargain results in a criminal conviction, just as it would be at the conclusion of a trial. The conviction will be on the defendant’s criminal record (however, the defendant might be eligible to seal or expunge the criminal record).

By contrast, you could have a strong case and could likely be found not guilty if you go to trial. That is why it is imperative to obtain sound legal advice from an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can evaluate your case and determine all of your available legal options to obtain the most favorable outcome possible.

If you have been arrested for a crime in Ventura County, contact The Law Offices of Jarrod M. Wilfert and request a free consultation with our experienced lawyer today.