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What is a plea bargain or plea negotiation?

When Virginia residents are charged with a crime they may anticipate that their criminal law experience will be limited to defending themselves against their pending charges. While in some cases defendants choose to go to trial and have their sides of their cases heard by judges and juries, in other cases defendants and their criminal defense attorneys choose to engage in plea negotiations to mitigate the sanctions pending against the defendants and to speed up the process of coming to resolutions in their cases.

A plea bargain or plea deal is effectively an agreement that a defendant and a prosecutor make that can lessens the charge against the defendant, as well as the possible criminal penalties they can face, and in exchange the defendant agrees to accept the consequences of their reduced charge. Defendants and prosecutors can negotiate down charges, penalties and even facts in order to expedite criminal proceedings.

Courts do not have to accept the plea deals of prosecutors and defendants. In fact, before they may approve such a deal they must ensure that three critical components are satisfied in the plea deal process. First, they must ensure that the defendant knowingly waived their rights to contest the charges in their plea deal. Second, they must make sure that the defendant was not coerced into making the deal: their waiver of their rights must be voluntary. Finally, the charges in the plea deal that will replace the charges in the original pleadings must be supported by the facts and evidence of the case.

Not every criminal defendant benefits from plea negotiations and plea deals. Through careful consultation with their criminal law attorneys, many individuals can make good decisions about their futures and how to protect themselves from their pending criminal charges.

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Boyce, Leahy & Francescon, Lawyers
9300 Grant Avenue, Suite 200
Manassas, VA 20110

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