What Does It Mean To Take A Plea Bargain?

We've all heard the term "plea bargain" at some point when following cases, but what does it really mean? A plea bargain or plea deal is an agreement between the prosecution and defense wherein both sides negotiate the outcome of a case. If a deal is met, then a case doesn't have to go to trial at all. According to Shi Yan, an assistant professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, about 95% of criminal cases are resolved in a plea bargain (via A&E).

Plea deals are often done for practical reasons. One obvious reason is that it saves time and money that would otherwise be spent going to trial. In most cases, defendants also take plea deals in order to avoid a possibly harsher punishment if they go into trial. Per the American Bar Association, the stipulations on the plea deal must be agreed upon by both the prosecution and the defense before it can be presented to a judge. However, it is still the court's decision whether to grant the plea deal or not.

How do plea bargains work?

One of the main reasons why a defendant agrees to a plea bargain is when the prosecution has a strong case that would most likely result in a guilty verdict. Instead of going through the trial process, the defendant can plead guilty to the crime in exchange for a more lenient sentence. Another reason is when the risk is too great to go into trial — a death sentence, for instance. In cases such as those, according to A&E, a defendant can choose to take a plea bargain of life in prison instead of being put to death. Plea bargains are highly common in different types of cases, as it is beneficial to both the defendant and the prosecution.

After a plea bargain is reached between the two parties, the agreement will be presented at a hearing in front of a judge, who will then decide to accept, reject, or modify the deal. If the judge agrees to the deal, the next step is the sentencing hearing for the defendant, as reported by Justia.