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How can plea negotiation help a defendant in Louisiana?

A Louisianan who has been charged with a crime, whether at the state or federal level, may think that he or she has two options - to plead guilty or not guilty. Fortunately, the nature of criminal defense is more complicated than this, and may often involve various forms of plea negotiation. This means that a defendant may have a greater range of options available to him or her.

An attorney skilled in plea negotiation may first discuss the possibility of charge bargaining with a client. Under this form of plea negotiation, an attorney may negotiate a dismissal of a more serious charge by the prosecutor in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser charge, such as a dismissal of a felony charge and a guilty plea to a misdemeanor.

In sentence bargaining, an attorney and his or her client may determine that it is beneficial to plead guilty to a charge while negotiating an agreement with a prosecutor that, in exchange, the sentence will be lighter. A defendant concerned about a lengthy sentence may find this option appealing. Fact bargaining, though used less often, can prevent the introduction of certain facts into evidence if a defendant chooses to admit and stipulate to certain other facts.

Though these negotiations are conducted with a prosecutor, a prosecutor cannot force the court to accept a plea. A prosecutor will recommend to the court that the court accept the plea, and the court will typically accept a plea that was arrived at under fair and just circumstances.

It is essential to have the assistance of counsel during plea negotiation. Negotiating over the consequences of a criminal charge must be done with the utmost care and attention to detail to protect the rights of the defendant and help them obtain the best possible result.

Source: FindLaw, "Plea Bargaining: Areas of Negotiation," accessed Aug. 28, 2015

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