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What you need to know about plea bargains

Wisconsin residents charged with a crime may be encouraged by their family, friends or attorney to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutor for the purpose of reducing the crime with which they are charged and/or minimizing the length of time they will spend in jail or prison upon conviction. FindLaw explains that while there may be many benefits inherent in a plea bargain, defendants should know exactly what they are agreeing to do or not to do in any plea bargain. In addition, they should thoroughly understand the consequences they will face as a result of the plea bargain.

There are three basic kinds of plea bargains as follows:

  1. In a sentence bargain, the defendant agrees that he or she will plead guilty to the offense(s) with which he or she is charged. In exchange, the prosecutor agrees to recommend that the defendant receive a lighter sentence.
  2. In a charge bargain, the defendant agrees that he or she will plead guilty to a less serious offense. In exchange, the prosecutor agrees to remove the more serious charge.
  3. In a fact bargain, the defendant agrees that his or her attorney will not dispute the truthfulness of one or more facts that the prosecutor enters into evidence at trial. In exchange, the prosecutor agrees not to bring up one or more other facts at trial that might be prejudicial to the defendant.

Plea bargain pros and cons

Per the American Bar Association, plea bargains save the state, the prosecution and the defense from going to the time and expense of what could be a lengthy criminal trial. On the other hand, defendants should know that a sentence plea bargain is not binding on the judge. If the judge believes that the defendant deserves to serve a longer prison term than that which the prosecutor recommends, he or she has the authority and discretion to impose a longer sentence.

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