California residents who are currently facing criminal charges are likely familiar with the idea of plea bargains, but they may not understand why they are offered or what benefit they may bring. Plea bargains have been an accepted practice within the criminal justice system for quite some time because they provide benefits to judges, prosecutors and defendants.
Defendants derive a benefit from the ability to plea bargain because they may be able to secure lesser penalties than wold otherwise be imposed. They may also be able to have a charge reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, helping them to move forward with fewer collateral consequences in the future.
Prosecutors offer plea bargains because it would be impossible for them to try every case that is filed. Prosecutors prefer to offer pleas to clear out less-serious offenses so that they can concentrate their resources on prosecuting cases in which pleas are not appropriate. Judges routinely accept pleas and encourage the process because the court's calendar is crowded and would be unable to handle trials for every case that is filed.
Criminal defense attorneys view plea bargains as one available option for resolving their clients' cases in a manner that is the most favorable. With skilled negotiations, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to secure a plea that is in the client's best interests. This can help to minimize the long-lasting damage the client may otherwise face. While the possibility of securing a plea agreement may be on the table, it is not the appropriate choice in every case. When the evidence against a defendant is weak, the attorney may recommend entering a plea of not guilty and fighting the charges in court.