Making a mistake should not foreclose your whole future. Even a repeat offender has the potential to reform and reenter society. This core belief underscores the rationale of plea bargaining.
Types of Plea Bargaining in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, there are two major categories of plea agreements: charge bargaining and sentence bargaining. In charge bargaining, the prosecutor and defense attorney negotiate outside of the court’s involvement, ultimately reaching a deal where the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to a lower charge, in exchange for the prosecutor dropping a more serious charge. In sentence bargaining, the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for receiving a reduced sentence from the court.
Strategies in Plea Bargaining
A plea deal saves all parties time and money. For overburdened prosecutors and court systems with overflowing dockets, pleas can be a very attractive option. However, they must be approached with a smart strategy.
Demonstrating a Commitment to Reform
The prosecutor has access to your criminal record, if any, as well as the instant charges against you. But it is up to your defense attorney to expose holes in the prosecutor’s case. If evidence might be subject to exclusion on procedural grounds, the prosecutor’s ability to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt could be compromised. This litigation hazard translates into negotiation leverage. But negotiation is also about the human side of the equation. If a defendant, even a repeat offender, demonstrates a willingness to reform, this can be influential. To demonstrate that a defendant is not a threat to society, he or she may agree rehabilitation or community service programs, extended probation, and other jail alternatives.