Criminal Cases in Arizona and Plea Bargaining
A plea bargain or plea agreement is an opportunity to avoid the trial and the uncertainties that stem from it. The terms will have to be agreed upon between the prosecution and the defense and the defendant will be required to enter a guilty plea for a specific charge. The judge will be responsible for the final ruling. While it makes a lot of sense under specific circumstances, criminal cases in Arizona and plea bargaining is not always the best match.
Criminal cases in Arizona and plea bargaining agreements are outlined in Arizona Revised Statutes Rule 17.4. According to the rule, the prosecution and the defense can negotiate and reach an agreement on just about every aspect of the case.
Before plea bargaining begins, the defendant should be given a chance to confer with the prosecutor concerning the resolution of the case without a court trial. In situations that involve a victim, that individual will also be given the right to be present during the talks.
Whenever an agreement cannot be reached out of court in Arizona, the plea bargaining process is discontinued and the case is taken back to court.
Defendants and other entities involved in the legal process should also know that a written plea agreement can be revoked at any time prior to its court acceptance. For the agreement to be valid, the defendant will have to understand all aspects and the following consequences.
Once the agreement is signed by all parties, a court has the right to accept or reject it. The court isn’t bound by any plea agreement provision for the term or the specifics of the sentence. Whenever a certain aspect of the plea is rejected, the defendant is given a chance to withdraw it. The defendant will also be advised that if the plea stands, the disposition of the case may be less favorable than originally anticipated.
Things You have to Understand about Criminal Cases in Arizona and Plea Bargaining
Reaching a plea agreement decreases the administrative burden on Arizona courts, which is why it’s encouraged. Before opting for this possibility, however, you will have to understand a couple of important things.
The first and the most critical one is that you’ll always have to plead guilty during plea bargaining. The guilty plea comes in exchange for leniency in terms of the sentence. Thus, if you know that you are innocent, plea bargaining doesn’t really make a lot of sense.
Also, you should know that statements made to further the plea discussion and that are incriminating towards you cannot be used against you if you refuse the plea agreement.
A defendant has to enter a plea bargain knowingly and voluntarily. All terms and conditions of the agreement should be fair, constitutional and in full compliance with the Arizona legal standards.
Benefits and Shortcomings
So, is a plea bargain the right strategy for resolving a criminal case? The answer depends on the specifics of the situation. An assessment of pros and cons will first have to take place and here are some of the most important advantages:
- A sentence could potentially be reduced
- Some of the charges may be dismissed
- Plea bargaining is a good tool for individuals that face maximum sentences
- The prosecution may agree to refrain from filing additional charges
- A more favorable sentencing range will be used
- The case will be resolved quickly
- It would be possible for the defendant to keep an occupational license
The shortcomings to take in consideration are:
- A defendant has to plead guilty
- There will be a charge and a conviction, even though they’ll be diminished
- There will be a waiver of the right to question or cross-examine witnesses
- The conviction cannot be appealed
- A jail or a prison sentence will most likely have to be served
Talking to an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney will give you a good idea whether plea bargaining is the right option for you. The strength of the case should be taken in consideration and this assessment will help the attorney determine whether the plea agreement will produce the most favorable outcome for their client.