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What Is the Plea Bargaining Process in California?

If you have been accused of a crime and are still trying to identify an experienced Riverside criminal defense attorney, you likely have many different questions about the process and what each of the phases means for your future. You might hear the term plea bargain thrown around in conjunction with your California criminal case. It is very important that you understand what plea bargains are, how they work and what rights you might be giving up by accepting one.

In the state of California, if you have been charged with committing a crime but the prosecution’s case against you is relatively weak, you can exercise your right to a trial by disputing the charge and hope for a not guilty verdict. If the jurors do determine that you are guilty of the crime, a judge could impose his or her discretion regarding the maximum possible sentence.

Many criminal charges in the state of California and around the country are resolved through plea bargains. These are official agreements that the state makes with the defendant in order to allow the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a dismissal of the more serious criminal charge.

Both the prosecution and the defense give something up in a plea bargain, but both also get something back. The defendant waives his or her right to a trial and ideally get some leniency in the punishment, whereas the state waives their right to prosecute a defendant for the more serious crime. It is important to recognize that you are giving up your right to trial if you accept a plea bargain in California.

The prosecution can, as part of this process, recommend that the defendant get a lighter sentence than the sentence which would have been originally imposed following a jury conviction. However, plea bargains must be taken seriously and carefully evaluated by a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Not every plea bargain is in your best interests and you need to have an experienced lawyer to evaluate the opportunity in front of you.