The vast majority of criminal cases end in a plea bargain. Approximately 90% of cases end in that fashion. The United States is unique in terms of how they offer defendants plea bargains as many countries don’t offer them.
Put quite simply, a plea bargain is when a defendant agrees to admit that they’re guilty of a crime to qualify for a lower sentence or have their charges reduced.
Plea bargains tend to how strong the prosecution’s case may be. It also reflects how involved some other cases that they’re waiting to try may be. It’s not uncommon for prosecutors to agree to plea deals to lessen the burden on already-overcrowded court dockets. Defendants can save themselves the expense of litigating their case by agreeing to a plea deal.
There are generally three types of plea bargains, one of which is charge bargaining. Charge bargaining is when a defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge like, for example, manslaughter instead of murder.
Sentence bargaining is when a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a lower sentence. An example of this may be if a defendant agrees to serve house arrest or probation as opposed to being sent prison.
Finally, there’s a seldom-used version of plea bargaining that involves the fact of a case. Defendants who fact bargain generally end up agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for certain facts not being brought to light in public.
Plea bargains can be revoked if a defendant fails to live up to their end of the bargain. For example, if a defendant receives a lighter sentence in exchange for testifying against a co-defendant then later fails to do so, then the plea deal can be rescinded. If the prosecution or defense fails to live up to the terms of the plea deal, then the affected party may go to court to have it enforced.
Most individuals that have been charged with a serious criminal offense end up with their case going to trial. It’s not uncommon for the defense and prosecutors to broker a plea deal right before this happens. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review your case and let you know what your chances of brokering a plea deal or getting acquitted might be.