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Plea bargains have become common in criminal cases

Residents in California may be interested to know that plea bargains have become a common way to settle criminal cases. Negotiated pleas can benefit judges, defendants and prosecutors in terms of time and money. Around 90 percent of criminal cases are decided by negotiated plea bargains between judges, prosecutors, defendants and their lawyers.

Plea bargains can be beneficial to defendants because they can lead to less severe sentences, which can mean less prison or jail time and fines. They also allow individuals to avoid the costs of a lengthy trial. Sometimes defendants will have to testify against others they have worked with, but taking a plea bargain can allow them to keep major convictions off of their records.

Plea bargains can be beneficial to judges and prosecutors as well because they can allow them to reduce their dockets and caseloads, respectively, which are usually very full. To deal with the issue of overcrowding in jails and prisons, judges may offer plea bargains in cases in which the defendants will likely be sentenced to minimal jail time. Plea bargains may be attractive to prosecutors because convictions, albeit lesser ones, are assured with plea bargains.

In criminal cases, the offering of plea bargains often depends upon the type of crime, chance of conviction during a trial and the potential sentencing for a defendant. Prosecutors may be more inclined to agree to plea bargains when they are trying to bring a case against a person accused of more serious drug-related or white collar crimes. A criminal law attorney may be able to advise clients on whether they should accept an offered plea bargain based on the evidence of the case or should go ahead with a court trial to try to avoid all criminal charges.

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