In this Business Kitz post, we are going to cover a common part of criminal proceedings known as a plea bargain. Read on to find out the fundamentals of plea bargaining, how it works in Australia, the benefits and when you should consider using it.
What is a plea bargain?
You’ve probably heard of cases where, before trial, the defence lawyer attempts to reach a suitable and mutually satisfactory arrangement about the criminal accusations. This negotiation process is what is referred to as a plea bargain.
A plea bargain occurs when a defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge than the one for which they would face trial. This negotiation takes place between the defence and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). In this procedure, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is forbidden from negotiating with defendant directly.
Plea bargain negotiations can include a wide range of issues, but they almost always include:
- the specific type of criminal charges to which the accused is willing to enter a guilty plea; and
- the specific facts and circumstances surrounding such charges.
How does a plea bargain work?
Negotiations can take place at any time after a charge has been laid. Plea bargains should be acceptable to both parties and reasonable in consideration of criminal behaviour. For a plea bargain negotiation, DPP prosecutors are required to adhere to specified regulations and procedures, including:
1. The negotiation process
A plea bargain might be proposed by either the DPP or the defence. However, the defence will ultimately make the plea agreement request.
The DPP and defence will engage in extensive negotiations whenever a plea agreement is suggested, and these debates centre on the conditions that might prompt the DPP to accept a plea bargain.
If the prosecution and the defence have reached an agreement, a plea bargain will be presented to the court.
2. Court considerations
Once an agreement has been made, the court will accept the plain bargain proposal if it is in the public interest. While deciding, the court will consider elements such as whether:
- the allegations to be pursued are reasonable regarding the alleged offender’s unlawful behaviour;
- in all the facts of the case, the accusations give a solid foundation for appropriate sentencing; and
- the accusations are supported by proof.
What are the benefits?
In general, plea agreements are utilised to balance two conflicting public objectives. The benefits may vary depending on the specifics of the case and will not be the same for everyone. Notwithstanding, the following are some benefits of resolving matters early without proceeding to a trial:
- plea bargains efficiently speed up the legal system while saving the defendant money and time;
- ensures the accused will be penalised for their actions;
- victims and witnesses won’t need to testify during a trial; and
- the accused can be entitled to a reduced sentence as a result of their guilty plea.
Does accepting a plea bargain make you guilty?
The answer is yes. A plea bargain calls for the defendant to either plead guilty, or drop the charges. Before accepting a plea offer, an innocent person should carefully consider their options. A criminal conviction can have lasting effects, even if there is no prison time involved.
A plea agreement gives you more control over the matter. Considering a plea bargain shouldn’t be taken hastily. It’s crucial that you discuss all of your alternatives with your attorney, and assess the evidence and the result you hope to achieve. Our sister company, Legal Kitz can help if you or someone you know needs advice on how to handle a criminal case. Click here to book a free 30-min consultation with our experienced and qualified team now. If you would like to read more of our blogs, have a look at our Knowledge Centre!