Many of the criminal cases in Phoenix end in a plea deal instead of the defendant going through a criminal trial. The criminal justice system allows defendants and prosecutors to negotiate a resolution to the criminal charges instead of having jury trials. A few cases could be dismissed before trial, but the bargaining process is much more common.
A plea deal or plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecution in a criminal matter. Defendants agree to plead guilty to criminal charges in exchange for a reduced sentence and/or reduced charges.
Plea agreements are used in all types of criminal cases, including DUI cases, drug crimes, theft, and sex crimes. However, the prosecutor is under no obligation to negotiate a plea agreement. If the prosecutor believes the evidence is strong enough for a conviction, he may decide to take the case to trial.
Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure require that the plea agreement is fair and in accordance with criminal law and legal standards. The prosecutor is authorized to accept plea bargains. However, Arizona Court Rules 17.4 states the terms of the plea deal must be in writing and signed by all parties.
The judge questions the defendant on the record to confirm that the written plea agreement represents the prosecution’s agreement after sentence bargaining with the defendant. In addition, the judge must ensure the defendant understands the terms of the plea deal.
The judge may consider comments made by the victim when deciding whether to accept a plea deal. The court is not bound by any agreement the defendant made to plead guilty as part of charge bargaining or count bargaining.
The judge may sentence the defendant according to the terms of the plea agreement. The judge may reject all or any portion of the plea agreement and sentence the defendant as the court deems appropriate given the law, sentencing guidelines, and the facts of the case.
However, before rejecting the plea agreement or any terms of the agreement, the judge allows the defendant to withdraw the plea. The defendant decides whether to move forward with the guilty plea or withdraw the guilty plea.
There are some advantages to accepting a plea deal instead of taking your chances at trial. Some potential benefits of negotiating a plea agreement include:
The benefits of a plea deal depend on the criminal charges, your criminal history, any mitigating or aggravating factors, and the maximum sentence the judge could impose for a guilty verdict. It helps to review the disadvantage of entering a plea deal before deciding what to do in your case.
Disadvantages of a plea agreement could include:
You and your attorney discuss the pros and cons of a plea agreement. A criminal defense lawyer considers the evidence and the potential sentence you could face without a plea agreement. Your attorney explains his reasoning for either accepting or rejecting the plea deal, but the final decision is up to you.
Arizona criminal statutes do not require you to have an attorney to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution. However, you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer to handle your criminal defense before negotiating a plea deal.
A prosecutor is more likely to offer a better plea deal when you have a criminal lawyer. The prosecutor knows you are not familiar with the rules of evidence, criminal law, and sentence guidelines.
Therefore, the prosecutor can take advantage of your lack of knowledge to offer a less favorable plea deal. You might take the plea agreement without knowing that you have a valid defense that could potentially result in a dismissal of the charges or give you leverage to negotiate better terms for your plea agreement.
A defense lawyer also ensures that you are not pressured into accepting a plea agreement and that you understand the terms of the agreement. Your criminal lawyer also ensures that your civil rights are not violated while negotiating a plea deal.