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Plea bargains in California: generally, a lot to think about

Many of our readers in the Bay Area and across California have likely seen television dramas and movies with scenes involving a back-and-forth discussion between prosecutors and criminal suspects concerning plea bargains.

Sometimes, taking a plea deal looks like a reasonable choice to make for an individual accused of crime. If incriminating evidence seems overwhelming in a case where a bargain is offered, a seasoned defense attorney might be able to negotiate an alternative outcome to a likely lengthy prison term that seems comparatively attractive.

There is a large "on the other hand" component associated with plea bargains, though, which we note on our criminal defense website at the Alameda County Law Office of John W. Noonan.

And that relates to innocence. It is no secret that some defendants in California and nationally who actually did not engage in wrongdoing are pressured by prosecutors to accept plea bargains. They might reasonably fear receiving a harsh sentence if they opt to go to trial, notwithstanding their innocence. Judges and juries do make mistakes.

It is often argued that plea bargains serve a useful function, playing an important role in expediting cases through a clogged court system and even enabling some defendants to secure preferable sentencing outcomes.

That is certainly true, to an extent. Conversely, we also note on our website that a plea bargain "prevents innocent people from having their case heard in court." Moreover, it sadly ensures that American prisons do indeed house individuals who actually never committed a crime.

There are many -- and complex -- issues related to plea bargains, including eligibility (not all persons accused of crime can be offered or seek to negotiate a plea bargain). Questions can be directed to an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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