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What is a Plea Agreement?

This content about civil rights attorneys was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.

A plea agreement or plea bargain is an agreement in which the prosecutor and the defendant agree to settle the criminal case against the defendant. A civil rights attorney is the best person to handle this type of process.

The defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere to the charges, in exchange for some form of agreement with the prosecution as to sentencing.

In some cases, the prosecutor will agree to charge a misdemeanor or drop some of the charges against the defendant in exchange for a guilty plea. The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea agreements.

Definitions of plea agreement

These are some definitions from law dictionaries and encyclopedias:

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

“the process of making an arrangement in court by which a person admits to being guilty of a smaller crime in the hope of receiving less severe punishment for a more serious crime”

Law.com

“n. in criminal procedure, a negotiation between the defendant and his attorney on one side and the prosecutor on the other, in which the defendant agrees to plead “guilty” or “no contest” to some crimes, in return for reduction of the severity of the charges, dismissal of some of the charges, the prosecutor’s willingness to recommend a particular sentence or some other benefit to the defendant.

Sometimes one element of the bargain is that the defendant reveals information such as location of stolen goods, names of others participating in the crime or admission of other crimes (such as a string of burglaries). The judge must agree to the result of the plea bargain before accepting the plea. If he does not, then the bargain is canceled.

Reasons for the bargain include a desire to cut down on the number of trials, danger to the defendant of a long term in prison if convicted after trial and the ability to get information on criminal activity from the defendant. There are three dangers:

  1. An innocent defendant may be pressured into a confession and plea out of fear of a severe penalty if convicted;
  2. Particularly vicious criminals will get lenient treatment and be back “on the street” in a short time;
  3. Results in unequal treatment. Public antipathy to plea bargaining has led to some state statutes prohibiting the practice, but informal discussions can get around the ban.”

How a civil rights attorney can help

Civil rights attorneys can help you navigate your options, build a case, and advise if a plea agreement is actually the best option available in your situation.

Haddad & Sherwin LLP has a long, successful track record winning wrongful death and other serious civil rights claims for police and jail officer misconduct, throughout Northern and Central California.  Call or email us for a free consultation.

This content about civil rights attorneys was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.