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What is involved in a plea negotiation?

Whenever reading about a high profile criminal case, most Montgomery County, Maryland residents pay attention to the seriousness of the charges for that trial. Whether it's a high profile murder trial or some other type of case, people always want to know what the charges are and what type of punishment the defendant is facing. But what many people sometimes forget is that there can be a plea bargain or plea negotiation which can change both the seriousness and type of punishment for that case.

During a plea negotiation, there are three areas of the case that can be discussed. The first main area is the charges themselves. This is the most common type of negotiation and it can be suggested by either the defendant's criminal defense team or even by the prosecution. Typically, what happens is, if the defendant pleads guilty to a less serious charge, the prosecution will discharge one or more of the most serious charges he or she is facing.

The next part that can be negotiated is the actual prison sentence that the defendant is facing. In this area, the prosecution usually agrees to a reduced sentence for the accused if he or she agrees to plead guilty to the main criminal charge. This type of negotiation helps both sides since the defendant will spend less time in jail while the prosecution doesn't need to go through a full trial in order to prove its case.

The last and most unusual area of plea negotiation is fact bargaining. Here, the defendant admits to specific facts relating to his or her case, and in return the prosecution agrees not to introduce certain other facts during the trial. By agreeing to this, the prosecution wins because it does not have to prove the facts that the defendant agrees to during the trial, while the defense wins because other, perhaps more damaging facts, are not bought into the trial.

It's important to remember that plea negotiations usually involve only one of these areas and do not take place during a court trial. The process usually occurs over the phone between the prosecution and defense or in the prosecution's office. Additional information on plea negotiation can be found here. However, it is important for anyone who is facing criminal charges to remember that a strong criminal defense team begins with an attorney who thoroughly understands all aspects of criminal law.

Source: "Plea bargaining: areas of negotiation," March 29, 2015

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