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What can influence a plea bargain?

Plea bargaining has become the norm in most courtrooms, as the justice system seeks to handle ever-increasing caseloads without backing up the courts.

That means that you should understand some of the factors that can influence what kind of deal you may be offered in exchange for your guilty plea.

There's no such thing as a "standard" plea deal.

The location of your arrest can drastically affect how good of a plea deal you are actually offered.

If you're in a county that's taking a tough stance on drug laws because of overdose deaths and other problems, for example, you may face a considerably harsher "deal" than the one you might face even the next county over.

The "trial tax" is a legitimate fear.

Defense attorneys often refer to something called the "trial tax," which is the tougher penalty that a defendant may face if he or she insists on a trial and is found guilty instead of accepting the offered plea.

Prosecutors often push hard for stiff penalties when they're forced to go to trial -- and judges often grant them. That trial tax is part of the leverage that prosecutors use to encourage pleas.

Negotiations often center on the charges and the sentence.

Your negotiations are likely to focus around two common elements of any criminal case: the charges you're facing and the possible sentences you may receive.

Charge bargaining revolves around trying to get the prosecutor to drop the heavier charges in favor of a lower charge, like dropping murder to involuntary manslaughter or possession with the intent to distribute to simple possession. It can also involve dropping additional counts of a charge -- allowing you to plead guilty to one count of possession of drug paraphernalia for having a pot pipe and rolling papers in your pocket instead of multiple charges of the same crime.

Sentence bargaining, in comparison, revolves around your agreement to trade a guilty for a lesser sentence. For example, you might agree to plead guilty to drunk driving to save on the time and expense of a trial in exchange for probation and an alcohol treatment program instead of jail.

Attorneys can often get their clients a much better plea deal than an individual can do on his or her own.

Source: FindLaw, "Plea Bargaining: Areas of Negotiation," accessed July 06, 2017

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