What is a plea bargain and how does the process work to resolve a case?

Plea bargaining is a process to resolve a criminal case without a jury trial on the merits of a case. A prosecutor will evaluate the facts, circumstances, and applicable law of the case to make a determination of what punishment (i.e. sentence) to offer a defendant in return for his plea of guilty to the charge in the case. The defendant, in consultation with his lawyer, will decide whether or not to accept the plea bargain.


There are advantages to both the State and the defendant to arrive at an agreement in many cases. However, a defendant has the right to reject a plea offer and request a trial by jury. If the defendant accepts the plea bargain, the case is set for a plea hearing before the court.


A written plea agreement is signed by the defendant and the attorneys and the defendant pleads guilty. If the court approves the plea bargain, punishment is assessed in accordance with the plea bargain agreement and the defendant begins to serve his sentence. Any proposed plea agreement must be approved by the court before it is entered.

Show All Answers

1. What happens when a law enforcement agency files a case with the District Attorneys Office?
2. What happens once a case is indicted?
3. What is a plea bargain and how does the process work to resolve a case?
4. How often are criminal cases disposed of through the plea bargain agreements?
5. How does as a victim fit into the prosecution of a criminal case?
6. How can charges be dropped in a criminal case?
7. Can a witness refuse to testify?
8. What if a defense attorney or private investigator contacts a witness about a case?
9. How long will a witness have to be at the courthouse?
10. When a case goes to trial, who determines if the defendant is guilty or innocent?
11. The defendant has been found guilty, now what?
12. Once the defendant's punishment had been decided, is that the end of the case?
13. Are all cases argued before the appellate court?
14. If the defendant’s conviction is affirmed, may he seek other relief?
15. Do most defendants convicted in a trial appeal their conviction?