If you are facing criminal charges in Denton or anywhere else in Texas, don’t be surprised if your case never goes to trial. Our criminal court system is over-crowded, thus, prosecutors and judges are motivated to move cases through their courts as fast as possible.
A criminal trial can take weeks, or even months, and the outcome of a criminal trial can be somewhat unpredictable. For prosecutors who take pride in their “wins,” a negotiated plea bargain that is a slam dunk is far more favorable than risking their track record with a trial.
When the defense and prosecution are able to reach an agreement, it gives both sides some control over the outcome, and hopefully both parties are satisfied with the result.
What is a plea bargain exactly? It’s where the prosecutor and defendant reach an agreement, which is mutually beneficial. Plea bargains often mean:
- The defendant pleads guilty or no contest (nolo contendere) to lesser charges,
- The defendant pleads guilty to a charge and in exchange the prosecutor drops one or more charges,
- In light of the evidence, the prosecution recommends a sentence that the defense finds acceptable.
If you are accustomed to seeing jury trials on TV and in the movies, realize that trials are the exception and not the norm. Upwards of 90% of criminal convictions stem from negotiated plea bargains, and NOT from trials – that means that less than 10% of criminal cases go to trial.
Two Types of Plea Bargaining
There are two types of plea bargaining: charge bargaining and sentence bargaining. With sentence bargaining, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to certain charges in exchange for a lighter sentence.
With charge bargaining, the prosecutor agrees to reduce a charge to a lighter offense or they agree to drop charges and in exchange, the defendant agrees to plead guilty.
What are the benefits of a plea bargain?
For defendants, there are definite benefits to taking a plea deal. For starters, when a defendant takes a plea bargain, it’s generally clear that they are receiving a lighter sentence for a less serious charge than what they would likely receive if they went to trial.
If a defendant is in custody and they cannot afford bail, or if bail is not available, they may get out of jail right away after a judge accepts their plea bargain.
Depending on the facts of the case, the defendant may get probation or get out of jail altogether, or they may be sentenced to community service. If the defendant does have to stay in jail, they can expect to get out much sooner than if their case had gone to trial.