What is a Plea Deal in Arizona?

Plea deals are a common way to negotiate the resolution of criminal charges. What often happens is that someone accused of a crime will accept a plea deal to avoid going to court, to enter a guilty plea with the possibility of lesser sentencing, and for a variety of other reasons.

However, a lot of people have come to question plea deals and whether they are fair or not. About 97% of criminal cases are resolved through plea deals. That means 97% of accused persons plead guilty. It is unlikely that police work in any part of the country is so effective and efficient that they catch the right person and issue the correct charges 97% of the time.

What is a Plea Deal?

A plea deal or a plea bargain is the negotiation between defendants and the prosecutors to achieve a guilty plea in exchange for the possibility of lesser sentencing. The idea is that the defendant gets to avoid a jury trial where they may face much harsher sentencing then what a plea deal can offer.

Plea deals are also appealing to the state in that it reduces the number of trials, the strain on judges, and the demands on juries. However, not every plea deal is the same. There are situations when a plea deal is only put in place for the defendant to avoid a lengthy jury trial, and they may face the same sentencing options even though they’re pleading guilty whereas other plea deals may forego jail time entirely and offer the defendant the opportunity to receive only probation or even community service.

Important Elements of a Plea Deal

There are a few elements that are important to a plea deal. Initially, a plea agreement requires that the defendant plead guilty. This does not exclusively mean that the defendant is admitting guilt or that they conducted the crime, but on paper, there is no more question of guilt in the matter.

Additionally, arranging a plea deal is a negotiation process. The prosecution and the defense will meet together to arrange for what seems to be fair sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea. After they reach an agreement, a judge can either approve the plea or reject it.

Can You Withdraw?

It is possible to withdraw from a plea deal before sentencing, and in some rare cases, it’s possible to withdraw from a plea deal post-sentencing. However, there are certain restrictions in place. You may only be able to withdraw from a plea deal if your attorney entered the guilty plea without your consent, your defense counsel did not advise you of the consequences or the possibility of a non-guilty verdict at trial. There are other elements that can come into play and cause a withdrawal either before or after sentencing.

To fully understand a possible plea deal, you should discuss the terms and consequences with an Arizona criminal trial attorney. Defense attorneys exist, so people accused of crimes have access to a fair trial.