The Basics of a Plea Agreement

If you’re charged with criminal activity in Washington, it is important to understand the plea agreement process. This may help you avoid particular criminal penalties or reduce the severity of criminal charges.

What Is a Plea Agreement?

A plea agreement is a legal contract that allows criminal defendants to plead guilty or “no contest” to criminal charges in exchange for a reduced criminal penalty. Depending on the criminal charges in question, a plea agreement may allow criminal defendants to avoid more serious penalties, such as deportation, revocation of professional licenses, and firearm ownership rights.

How Does a Plea Agreement Work?

Typically, criminal defense attorneys negotiate criminal plea agreements with prosecutors on behalf of criminal defendants. The defense attorney and defendant can negotiate specific terms together, including the penalty for criminal charges, any restrictions, and conditions to fulfill in exchange for a plea agreement, such as community service hours.

When criminal defendants agree to criminal charges, they enter a guilty plea. The defendant may also choose to plead no contest, which does not admit guilt but concedes that prosecutors have sufficient evidence to convict the criminal defendant.

Can a Judge Overturn a Criminal Plea Agreement?

Judges can reject criminal plea agreements that they deem unfair or inappropriate under certain circumstances. However, criminal defense attorneys may attempt to renegotiate criminal plea agreements with prosecutors if a judge rejects them. If a judge accepts the plea agreement, the criminal defense team might go forward with the criminal charges and enter a guilty or no-contest plea.

Plea agreements can be used as leverage in order to reduce criminal charges and help defendants avoid certain criminal penalties. Besides helping the prosecution avoid lengthy trials and save time, these agreements also help the courts to reduce criminal case backlogs and better allocate criminal justice resources.

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