Louisiana residents probably know they have the constitutional right to a trial by their peers, but going through a criminal trial may not be the best way to defend oneself in every situation. Depending on the circumstances, individuals facing criminal charges may not want to go through the criminal justice system and their defense may be possible in another way-through plea negotiation.

Despite what procedural televisions shows would have us believe, most criminal prosecutions in the country do not happen in front of the jury-they are resolved through plea bargains. A plea agreement is reached between the defendant and the prosecution, whereby the defendant agrees to plead guilty to some or all of the charges they are facing in exchange for the prosecution showing them leniency. This saves the prosecution time and effort and removes the uncertainty of a jury verdict for the defendant.

There are various types of plea bargains. A charge bargain, the most widely known, takes place when the prosecutor agrees to dismiss higher charges in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty to the lesser charges. For example, the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter instead of first-degree murder. Secondly, the prosecutor can reduce the severity of the sentence-the charge is not lessened in this situation but the penalty associated with it is. In this situation, the prosecution does not have to go through the hassle of proving its case and the defendant gets a lighter sentence.

There must be a factual basis to the charges for which the defendant is pleading guilty, and it must be a knowing and voluntary waiver of their rights. For many people accused of committing a crime, the associated sentence may be too high for them to risk going through a criminal trial. A plea bargain may be the best criminal defense for them.