A Brief Introduction to the Plea Agreement
An agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in a criminal case according to which the defendant agrees to plead guilty, also called nolo contendere or no contest in return for certain concessions from the prosecutor. This is the complete plea agreement definition.
The concessions given by the prosecutor are in many forms. The prosecutor can reduce the number of charges framed against the defendant or allow the defendant to plead guilty to less severe charges or only some of the charges while dismissing other charges. The prosecutor can also assure the defendant of a lenient sentence, which is acceptable to the defense in return for pleading guilty to all the original charges. In such a case, the prosecutor will give benefit to the defense over certain facts which will influence the sentence given by the judge. Plea agreements are not looked at with favor in many quarters, but courts have come to accept such agreements.
Who Takes the Plea Agreement? – People Involved
Plea agreement happens between the prosecutor and criminal defense attorney of the accused. The judge will be involved when the prosecution and defense are unable to come to an agreement due to various reasons. The judge will converse with both the prosecutor and defense attorney and examine the evidence against the accused and the arguments and proofs that will be presented by the defense. The judge will also assess the concessions that the state is willing to offer to the defense and what is acceptable to the defense. The judge will give the best offer to the defense in light of the evidence against the accused.
Purpose of the Plea Agreement – Why Do You Need It?
The criminal justice system is choked with cases. Trials are lengthy and can even run into years. Both the prosecutors and the judges want to rush cases; thus, these plea deals offer the best solution to dispose of cases. Another vital reason is that the outcome of a trial is uncertain. Even a strong case against the defendant can become weak due to a number of reasons such as a hostile or disappeared witness or motion to suppress evidence granted to the defense.
Plea bargain ensures that prosecution does not lose the case completely while taking the defense into confidence. It is required to avoid a lengthy trial. This agreement allows both parties to avoid a prolonged trial under court defendants can reap from plea negotiation is that they can save a bundle on attorneys’ fees, assuming they are signified by private counsel.
From the defense point of view, a plea bargain is the right way of getting off the hook with a lighter sentence and escaping the harsh punishment that awaits if he/she loses the trial. The defendant is also saved from spending a lot of money on the advocates during the trial. Plea agreements are concluded much more swiftly than trials.
Contents of the Plea Agreement – Inclusions
The prosecutor can offer three types of concessions in the plea agreement as per the severity of the charges and the evidence against the defendant. First is charge bargaining, in which the prosecutor offers the defendant to plead guilty to a less severe charge than the one imposed. Second is count bargaining, in which the prosecutor offers the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser number of charges than originally framed. The third is sentence bargaining, in which the prosecutor offers the defendant to plead guilty with the knowledge of the lenient sentence that would be awarded by the judge.
Another variation occurs when the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge than the one formerly faced. The second form of plea bargaining is known as sentence bargaining. This occurs when the defendant pleads guilty to the original charge in return for a recommendation from the prosecutor of sentencing concessions, such as a suspended sentence, probation, or imprisonment not to exceed an agreed term of years.
The charges that the defendant will be pleading guilty are described in the plea agreement, and what punishments are applicable under those charges are also mentioned. The defendant will be asked to accept the factual allegations that the prosecution has leveled in this agreement. The agreement gives an undertaking that the defendant will not be prosecuted under charges that have been agreed upon to be dropped. Sentencing guidelines as per the charges to which the client will plead guilty will also be present in the plea agreement.
How to Draft the Plea Agreement? – Inclusions
Points to Consider While Preparing the Agreement
In plea bargaining cases, the agreement is drafted after analyzing the strength or lack it of the evidence that the prosecution has against the defendant, the kind of defenses that are the disposal of the defense attorney, and the risk of conviction after the trial is concluded. All the terms to be included in the plea agreement need to be thoroughly negotiated by the defense attorney with the prosecutor. The terms must be discussed and agreed upon before the agreement is shown by the prosecutor to his/her superiors for approval. This is because it becomes difficult to change or add terms after the agreement has been approved.
If your plea bargain contains any kind of jail or prison time for more than a month, you must really take time to deliberate what that would actually know. Many plea bargains include a relinquishment of appeal that might mean you would give up your right to contest your plea or your case in court. Discuss what this means with your lawyer, as courts aren’t very open to influences about your unawareness of the law. Remember that while enslaved, you will require someone to pay your bills, deliver childcare, and guarantee that your belongings are secure. You may also lose your job if you do time.
In order to effectively negotiate the plea agreement, the defense attorney must have a good technical knowledge of every aspect of the crime that the defendant has been charged with by the state, understand the sentencing guidelines and must be able to analyze the evidence to determine whether or not the charges can be disputed at the trial.
Benefits & Drawbacks of the Plea Agreement
- The main advantage of plea bargaining is that it speeds up the procedures of the justice scheme.
- The agreement assures the prosecution of a conviction even though the charges are lesser.
- Conviction frees up the court and prosecution to pursue other cases. The plea agreement also removes the uncertainty of the result of a trial.
- The defendant is not certain whether the court will find him/her guilty or not and a plea agreement him/her to escape the uncertainty. The cost of holding a trial can also be avoided by this agreement.
- It can be an effective transferring tool.
- It provides more resources for the community.
- Plea bargain deprives the defendant of the right to trial.
- The plea bargain also causes the prosecutor and the law enforcement officials to go slow in investigating the case because a deal is struck with the defendant. Thus, justice is not protected.
- It provides soft justice for the guilty.
- Plea bargain creates a criminal record for an innocent person merely because he or she doesn’t have enough resources to pay for the trial and is willing to accept the deal.
- It may lead to poor investigatory procedures.
- Plea bargains remove all the chance of an appeal.
What Happens In Case of Violation?
The plea agreement is legally binding on both the prosecution and the defense. Both parties are required to honor the terms of the agreement. The agreement is revoked if the defendant does not satisfy the terms of the agreement. In case the prosecutor fails to abide by the terms of the agreement, the defense attorney needs to put in a request that either the prosecutor follows the terms of the plea agreement or revokes it all together. Because persuasive guilty needs a respondent to willingly, meaningfully, and logically waive a few of the constitutional rights, a waiver persuaded by an unkept assurance is inacceptable. Thus, when a perpetrator pleads guilty, independence on a prosecutor’s potentials, like promises, should be satisfied.
A breach of the plea bargain by the perpetrator might occur if the defendant gives perjured testimony to a grand jury, falsifies personal identity to enter a plea agreement with a prosecuting attorney, or refuses to testify against an accomplice as agreed. A judge has the option to choose if they accept or reject this agreement. To make that choice, the judge assesses whether the sentence is suitable in light of the importance of the charges, the defendant’s character, and the defendant’s preceding criminal record.
Plea bargaining requires the defense attorney to be well versed with the case, understand the evidence well, have a good knowledge of the applicable charges, and even the character of the prosecutor and the judge. The defense attorney must be able to give sound advice to the client regarding whether to accept the plea bargain(1), push for more concessions, or reject the terms completely and go to trial.
The foremost point in the plea agreement is that the defendant would give up his legitimate right to have an experimental method, and in return, she or he would get some of the other advantages from the administration. So, although the massive majority of persons coming from the illegal justice system receive a plea agreement, individuals must know that when they say they are remorseful of the charges, there are a lot of rights that are given up. It must not be taken casually.
[Also Read: Waiver Agreement]