Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

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The role of plea bargaining

As a means to keep the Illinois criminal judicial system moving smoothly, many cases are resolved through the use of plea bargains. Without them, it is thought that the system would become overburdened and inefficient. One of the biggest benefits of a plea bargain is that it is an agreement that the parties agree to on their own, which means that the terms will be adhered to.

As it takes many months or sometimes years for an available court date to open up, judges prefer that a case is settled before it has to go to trial. Prosecutors also like to see cases settled to ensure that they can try and resolve cases in a timely manner. Another benefit to a plea bargain is that it may keep nonviolent criminals from spending time behind bars, which reduces overpopulation in jails and prisons.

A prosecutor and an attorney alike may prefer a plea bargain because it represents a sure thing. Going to trial could result in a defendant being convicted and receiving a maximum penalty while a prosecutor could lose and get nothing for his or her time and effort. For prosecutors who pride themselves on their conviction rate, a plea bargain makes it easier to get a conviction more often even if the penalties are modified.

Whether an individual is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, it is possible to have charges dropped or reduced through a plea bargain. In some cases, a plea may result in jail time suspended in lieu of probation or replaced with a fine or community service. While a plea may be offered in a case, it is the defendant's choice as to whether or not to accept it, and not his or her attorney's.

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