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An astounding amount of criminal cases are settled through plea bargains. There are a number of reasons why the defendant and their attorney may choose a plea bargain. Taking a “deal” is a way to both negotiate a lesser sentence and save court resources from a time consuming trial.

Plea Bargain

A plea bargain is when the prosecution and defense strike up a deal with one another. Either side can initiate this. Most opt for a plea deal because it protects them from going through a court process, which could save the defendant time and money. Depending on the details of their case, the defendant may decide to do this because it results in a lesser sentence.  Regardless of whether the defense and prosecution come to an agreement, the judge ultimately will need to approve the deal that is made.

Taking a Deal

When the accused takes a plea deal, they are often pleading guilty to at least one of the charges they have been accused of. There is always some level of risk associated with going to trial for criminal charges, plea deals give the defendant a clearer picture of what lies ahead. The most common type of plea deal is known as charge bargaining.  Charge bargaining is when the defense and prosecution negotiate the defendant’s plea to a lesser charge. Often, if the defendant agrees to this, the state dismisses other charges that they have brought forth. A few examples of this are: pleading to manslaughter instead of murder or pleading guilty to trespassing while a burglary charge is dismissed.

Court Diversion

In some cases, when a lesser crime has been committed there are other alternatives to taking a plea deal. Depending on the state the defendant resides, areas offer various diversion programs for minor offenses. Often the accused is required to take part in a rehabilitation program, counseling, and must complete probation. Examples of Typical Offenses for Court Diversion:

  • Minor Traffic Offenses
  • Drug Charges
  • Petty Theft
  • Non-Violent Crimes
  • DUI

To qualify for court diversion, the defendant cannot have any prior offenses.

An attorney will be important in the negotiation of the plea deal with the state.

There are a number of reasons someone may choose this path over a court process that can be lengthy, expensive and may even be covered by the media. It is important to consult with the criminal defense attorney such as the Criminal Defense Lawyer DC locals turn to when considering whether or not a plea deal is strategically the right direction for the case to move in.


A special thanks to our authors at Brynn Law for their insight into Criminal Defense Law.