Every baseball player would like to hit a home run every time he steps up to the plate. But we all know that in the real world the chances of that happening are nil. Similarly, every person charged with a crime wants to be acquitted, and every criminal defense attorney wishes that he or she could always deliver on that desire, but in the real world there are going to be times when being found not guilty of all charges is simply not going to happen.
Fortunately, the criminal justice system allows for some flexibility in cases where it looks like the prosecution has enough evidence so that acquittal is not possible. And a key area where that flexibility can come into play is through plea negotiations.
Plea negotiations can take the form of either reduced charges, a reduced sentence, or both, in exchange for a guilty plea. The advantages of a plea bargain for the prosecution are a guaranteed conviction without the need for a trial, and for the defendant the prospect of less severe penalties than might be the case if the matter went to a jury.
An example of how plea negotiation can work is the recent case of a former Kentucky State Police Trooper, who was charged with official misconduct (two counts) and witness tampering. Through plea bargaining, his attorney was able to have all of these charges dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to first degree disorderly conduct; moreover, the bargain also resulted in the one-year sentence being reduced to only 30 days in jail with two years of probation.
A skilled criminal defense attorney should represent his client’s interests to the best of his ability. But if securing an acquittal is not possible, then seeking the best possible outcome for the client can also require the attorney to be a good negotiator as well as a good litigator.
Source: Bowling Green Daily News, “Former Kentucky State Police Trooper accepts plea bargain,” July 22, 2015