The roadmap for being accused of a crime to sentencing can be a lengthy one. One important aspect of rightful sentencing is a plea hearing. With that said, all individuals who are accused of a crime can expect to receive a plea hearing as part of the sentencing process. A plea hearing involves a court hearing where a defendant responds to criminal charges against them.
There are 3 ways a defendant can respond to criminal charges. A defendant can respond with a plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest).
Plea hearing vs Plea bargain
It’s important to note that a plea hearing and a plea bargain are not the same. With that said, a plea bargain can occur at the plea hearing. The plea hearing happens right before the actual trial before a judge with all parties present.
A plea bargain, on the other hand, is a negotiation set forth between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. The goal of a plea bargain is to negotiate charges and a potential sentence. Many defendants opt for a plea bargain as it can often lead to more favorable outcomes for the defendant.
If the judge agrees to the terms of the negotiation, the defendant will move forward to sentencing. This may be done at the same hearing or at a future hearing. It’s important to note that the judge will always go over the plea deal with the defendant in an open court to ensure the defendant understands what deal they are agreeing to and that they are making the deal at their own free will.
Individuals facing criminal charges might consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney could help defendants determine the best plea bargain for their case and receive the best possible outcome with sentencing.