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What are the pros and cons of plea bargains?

If you are arrested and charged with a crime in New Hampshire, chances are good that at some point between your arrest and trial, the possibility of a plea bargain will be raised.

Statistics show that over 90 percent of defendants with convictions received them as part of an agreed-upon plea negotiated between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. In many cases, both sides have incentives to arrange plea bargains.

Prosecutors benefit from plea bargains because they are assured of a conviction. Any jury trial is essentially a roll of the dice, despite what may appear to be extremely strong evidence against the defendant. Prosecutors also use plea bargains when they have multiple defendants charged with the same or related crimes. They may offer a plea to one co-defendant whom they believe had less culpability, or on whom the evidence is less damning. They do this in order to secure his or her testimony against a "bigger fish" in the case.

Defendants in criminal cases often accept a plea bargain in order to receive a shorter sentence or even probation. Sometimes they agree to plead to a less serious charge that has fewer repercussions on them legally or otherwise.

There is a third party who must agree to the plea and who also has a vested interest in the negotiation -- the judge. Overcrowded dockets are relieved by defendants who accept plea bargains. Some judges also consider the problem of prison overpopulation when agreeing to accept a plea that doesn't include jail time.

If you are contemplating accepting a plea bargain, it is vital to discuss all aspects of the deal with your criminal defense attorney before agreeing to any terms.

Source: findlaw.com, "Plea Bargain Pros and Cons," accessed May. 07, 2015

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