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Why do judges accept plea bargains?

When you're facing a criminal charge, one thing you should understand is what happens if you take a plea deal. Plea bargaining is a major part of the United States criminal justice system. It's there to help reduce the time and cost of a trial, to avoid publicity, to eliminate uncertainty about the case's outcome and to reduce the overall caseload of the court system.

Plea bargains have benefits and downsides. For instance, if someone is innocent, taking a plea deal may feel like admitting to something he or he didn't do. However, plea deals do give them the opportunity to walk away with fewer or no long-term repercussions in some cases. So, if they're unable to prove their innocence and there is evidence against them, it could be a good choice for their case.

Both the prosecution and defense must agree to a plea before it can be entered in at court. If a judge does not agree to the deal, he or she may deny it. In most cases, a judge will agree, but be understanding if the judge does not agree to a deal you approve of.

There are some alternatives to going to prison and to other penalties that you might want to have in your plea deal. For instance, someone accused of drug crimes could fight for a drug treatment program in lieu of a prison sentence. That way, the individual would get medical help instead of going without it. Your attorney can talk to you about the alternative penalties offered to you, so you understand exactly what your options are.

Source: American Bar Association, "Steps in a Trial: Plea Bargaining," accessed Jan. 18, 2018

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