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What does a plea bargain mean in relation to drug crimes?

If this is the first time you have faced criminal drug charges, you are likely hearing a lot of terminology you might not understand. Asking questions is a great idea and can help you prepare for your journey through the legal system. The answers you receive to your questions can also help you make the right decisions for your unique situation.

A plea bargain is the process of resolving a case without going through a trial. A plea bargain has a few advantages and a few disadvantages. For example, an advantage of negotiating a plea bargain could mean a lighter sentence for the defendant. An example of a disadvantage for the defendant is losing his or her right to have a say and a defense in court.

Either the prosecution or defense can initiate the process of negotiating a plea bargain for drug offenses, but both sides must agree before it can happen. Most plea bargains involve the defendant pleading guilty either to a lesser charge or to fewer charges. The prosecution also has an important role to play in a plea bargain by recommending a more lenient sentence than the defendant might otherwise receive.

Judges also often have a say in how or if a plea bargain is granted as a judge is not bound by any agreement made between the defense and the prosecution. However, there are occasions when a plea agreement can be reached without the court's involvement.

While plea bargains can work in the best interests of defendants charged with drug crimes, it is still a good idea to seek legal advice from a defense attorney. This ensures a defendant is not being taken advantage of or otherwise being denied his or her rights.

Source: American Bar Association, "How Courts Work," accessed April. 13, 2015

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