As a previous post here discussed, not everyone in Maryland may find that going through every step of the criminal justice system is the best option for their criminal case. The best part about our justice system is that there are many options available to those facing criminal charges, and one of them is to opt out of the system and reduce uncertainty by accepting a plea agreement.
The most commonly known plea is that of charge bargaining. In this, specific counts or charges that the defendant may face in trial are negotiated. What generally happens is that the prosecutor agrees to drop higher charges in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty on lesser charges. For example, instead of first-degree murder, the defendant may plead guilty to manslaughter.
Sentence bargaining is another form of plea. In this, the charges are not reduced, but the sentence is. Therefore, the sentence for the original charge is reduced. Prosecutors may prefer this as it saves them the trouble of proving a case and allows the defendant to face lighter penalties. The last form of bargaining, fact bargaining, is the least used negotiation tool-one party admits to certain facts in order to avoid the introduction of other facts at trial.
In order for a plea agreement to be valid, defendants must knowingly and voluntarily waive their rights and have a factual basis on which they are pleading guilty. Although it may seem straightforward, there are still many legal complexities involved in criminal law - it is important for Maryland residents to know their options.