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What should Pennsylvanians know about plea negotiations?

Arrests occur every day in Pennsylvania. But, not every arrest results in a conviction. Some arrestees are able to successfully challenge the legality of their arrest, while others may be truly innocent of the crimes charged.

However, many arrests will leave the defendants looking at all options, and in many cases, one of those options is to engage in plea negotiations with the prosecutor. So, what should Pennsylvania residents know about plea negotiations?

Primarily, it can be a sound part of a criminal defense strategy to see what the prosecutor may be offering in terms of a plea agreement. While the defendant may ultimately reject the plea offer and take the case to trial, it never hurts to see if the prosecutor is making a plea offer that is reasonable -- or that offers a lesser penalty than the defendant might face if a trial is unsuccessful. It is important to consider all options.

Next, entering into a plea agreement may save a defendant the potential embarrassment of having a public trial. Depending on the allegations involved in the case, a defendant may desire to settle the case quickly and relatively quietly.

Lastly, it is important to realize that even if the defendant and prosecutor come to an agreement in plea negotiations, the court is not initially bound by the terms of the agreement. The plea agreement will need to be presented to the court for approval. If the plea agreement is approved, the judge will generally then be bound by its terms.

Source: AmericanBar.org, "How Courts Work," accessed on Dec. 18, 2016

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