The Role of Plea Bargaining in California Criminal Cases

By pleading guilty in a criminal case, a defendant may prevent an unduly harsh penalty and receive a sentence that reflects the nature of the crime.

When a person has been charged with a criminal offense in Redding, California, the process of the criminal trial may delay the conviction for months without ending in a conclusion that reflects true justice. Rather than spending that time incarcerated while waiting on the state court system to go through all the required steps, it is possible in some cases for the defendant to make a guilty plea in exchange for a shorter sentence.

Plea bargains are integral in the court system

A plea bargain does not require the case to go to trial. Instead, the defendant’s attorney works with the prosecuting attorney to work out a shorter sentence that is appropriate for the nature of the alleged crime. Many crimes have mandatory prison sentences that do not reflect the details of the act actually committed. A plea bargain may prevent the accused from being sent to prison for decades.

According to the University of Virginia School of Law, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged the role of plea bargains in the American Judicial System, pointing out that approximately 95 percent of those who are convicted of a crime have entered a guilty plea. Although a plea bargain does not go to trial, the judge is still required to review and approve the deal that the prosecutor and defense attorney have worked out.

Outcomes may be tailored to the situation

The Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review notes that the dockets of the state’s court system are much too full to allow each case to go through the necessary process. Judges and prosecuting attorneys are unable to handle the workload that they would face if every case went to trial. For this reason, they are willing to provide most of those who have been charged with the opportunity to lower their sentences.

When it is considered from this perspective, the guilty plea can be treated as a tool to protect a defendant’s rights. Rather than seeming to guarantee a prison sentence, it prevents convictions from being unnecessarily punitive for the situation and allows a person who is charged with a crime to have more control over the outcome of the case.

Some argue that the option to plead guilty could convince those who are, in fact, not guilty of the crime to choose the lesser sentence to avoid the possibility of an unsuccessful trial. However, facing a harsh penalty due to the lack of evidence may be the only alternative. To prevent a prosecutor from striking a bargain that is not in the defendant’s favor, he or she may want to seek legal advice from a criminal defense attorney in California.