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Should I accept a plea bargain?

When conviction is likely -- given the evidence brought forward by the prosecution in a criminal lawsuit -- the defendant may want to try to negotiate a "plea bargain." Plea bargaining is a powerful tool used by defense attorneys to help defendants receive a dramatically reduced punishment for their alleged crimes.

Plea bargaining is a kind of settlement negotiation. A defendant will talk with prosecutors to determine if they're interested in plea bargaining, and if they are, they will begin to negotiate the terms of the bargain. Those terms typically involve the defendant agreeing to plead guilty to one or more charges in exchange for the other charges being dropped. The plea bargain may also involve the plaintiff being aware of the end punishments for the crimes he or she pleads guilty to.

In the best of plea bargains, a plaintiff who might have otherwise spent a long time in jail could try to get off with spending his or her sentence confined at home or confined to a particular area while wearing an ankle bracelet. Or, perhaps in exchange for jail time, the plaintiff agrees to community service.

Ultimately, like any kind of settlement negotiation, the end results of a plea bargain will remain unknown until the plaintiff talks with the prosecution. However, in approximately 90 percent of criminal law matters, the plaintiff is able to arrive at some kind of plea bargain arrangement. A successful plea bargain will save the plaintiff time, litigation costs and attorneys' fees. It may also help him or her reduce potential punishments when a conviction is likely to occur.

Source: FindLaw, "Defense Plea Bargains," accessed June 09, 2017

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