There are some instances in criminal law wherein a defendant is offered the opportunity by the prosecution to plead guilty in order to obtain a less severe sentencing or to plead guilty to a less severe criminal charge. The defendant may choose to take the opportunity when it becomes difficult for the defense to uphold the defendant’s innocence. Such an instance refers to a plea agreement, otherwise known as a plea bargain or plea deal.
3 types of plea agreements exist based on what the defendant pleads to and how the bargaining was done. A plea agreement can be reached as a result of charge bargaining wherein the defendant admits guilt to a less severe charge. Another way to obtain a plea agreement is through count bargaining wherein the defendant can admit guilt to a number of charges less that that which was originally brought up. Lastly, sentence bargaining, which involves the defendant admitting guilt to the sentence given, can result into a plea agreement. The first 2 are the more commonly used forms of obtaining a plea agreement.
Entering into a plea agreement is an expedited form of conviction. Even if the defendant accepted the plea agreement, the defendant admits guilt and essentially surrenders to a conviction. Plea agreements can hasten a court proceeding because the defendant will plead guilty before a conviction is reached. This saves the prosecution time and effort to prove that the defendant is guilty. Thus, the prosecution can offer a plea bargain in order to avoid a drawn out court trial.