What Is A Plea Bargain?

Most court houses have a limited number of courtrooms that are designated as available for trial. Typically out of 12 courts in a county courthouse 4 are assigned as trial ready. Thousands of cases per year are filed by prosecutors and are processed through the court as felonies or misdemeanors.

There are not enough resources to present these cases to a jury so in reality nearly 100% are plea bargained. A plea bargain is an agreement that the maximum sentence or the maximum charge is not sought by the prosecution. The defense and the prosecution with the consent of the court agree to some sort of middle ground where the ends of justice are served.

For example a charge of grand theft as a felony can be reduced to petty theft as a misdemeanor if the dollar amount of the theft is not overly excessive and an agreement is made to pay off the damages and make restitution. This agreement could avoid state prison time or might even result in a straight probationary sentence if the prior record is minimal.
Therefore, it is in the interest of the court and law enforcement to effectively process cases through the court system by concession and agreement. Experienced criminal attorneys are familiar with the limits of these agreements and can benefit their clients by appropriately concluding these cases.

However, in certain serious felony cases both the court and prosecution are unwilling to compromise. These are the cases that gain newspaper coverage and are the ones that occupy the limited resources of the court system.