When people think of criminal law, perhaps one of the most overlooked areas of is the plea negotiation process. For instance, when we turn on the television, the popular crime dramas always cover the trial, but they may not show the plea negotiation process. Plea bargaining, however, is an extremely important aspect of criminal law, and it can frame the entire case, so it is important to understand it.
Plea bargaining or negotiation has its roots in contract law. During the plea negotiation process, the prosecutor and the defendant will try to come to a plea agreement. In some cases, the prosecutor is seeking a guilty plea from the defendant in exchange for dismissing or reducing a charge against the defendant, which can ultimately lead to a reduced sentence for the defendant. Alternatively, there may be a discussion about a lower sentence if the accused agrees to accept the charges as presented; this is usually done to avoid the cost and time of a trial. Of course, the defendant must also agree to waive a trial and proceed directly to the sentencing hearing.