Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is when your lawyer and the prosecutor talk about settling the case without having a trial. This can be done at any time during the case, from the arraignment up until a verdict in a trial. You can ask for a plea bargain, but the prosecutor can choose not to plea bargain with you. If you agree on a plea bargain, it must be approved by the Judge. Only the Judge can decide your sentence. For example, you may agree to plead guilty in exchange for the prosecutor’s promise to ask the Judge for a sentence with no jail time, just probation. Or, you and the prosecutor may agree that you will plead guilty to a lesser charge that has a lower range of punishments for the Judge to choose from at your Sentencing.

Be Careful

Many people choose a plea bargain instead of going to trial because it is much faster and you can be sure of the outcome. But, make sure you understand the impact of what you are agreeing to. You give up some of your rights, like the right to a jury trial, the right to confront your accuser, and the right not to incriminate yourself. You will have to stand up in court and confess to the crime you are pleading guilty to.

Also, many sentences can affect your life in other ways than just jail time. Some convictions prevent you from holding certain jobs, or impact your housing choices or your immigration status. See Collateral Consequences. Make sure you talk about this with your lawyer.

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