A plea bargaining agreement could keep a defendant from serving a harsher sentence in California. A defendant looking at likely conviction at trial may then face many years in prison and a heavy fine, depending on the crimes committed. A plea bargain may reduce the penalties providing the judge accepts the terms. Unfortunately, the judge’s role is limited.
Judges and plea bargains
A judge will typically review a plea bargain after both the prosecutor and the defense attorney devise the agreement. The judge then rejects or approves the agreement based on several factors. A highly lenient plea agreement, for example, might not be acceptable.
Those assuming the judge has a greater role in plea bargains might be highly mistaken. The judge’s interactions with the defendant could involve little more than verbal responses to questions. The defendants often waive many rights they do not fully understand during the plea bargain process.
Only eight states allow judges to become involved in the plea bargain process. Some advocates suggest that a judge should be more involved in the process to better ensure the accused’s rights.
Plea bargains and punishments
The plea bargain could involve pleading guilty to lesser charges. Guilty pleas with an agreement by the prosecutor to request a lesser sentence is another option in a criminal defense. Many things can work against a defendant at trial when the evidence for proven guilt is strong. Therefore, a plea bargain might be the better option.
Defendants may find plea bargain negotiations are more challenging than anticipated. A prosecutor might devise terms that may seem inflexible and unacceptable. Effective negotiations could result in a more agreeable arrangement.