4 Types of Plea Bargains

Before the late 1800s, plea bargaining was almost non-existent in criminal cases. As the courts started to become overwhelmed with the amount of charges the government was bringing against defendants, prosecutors began using this tool more. Today, the vast majority of criminal charges are settled through plea bargains; in fact, only 2% of federal charges make it to a jury trial!

Gathering evidence in a white-collar criminal case is generally more difficult for prosecutors due to the nature of that type of crime. White-collar crimes do not involve physical violence and usually involve financial matters, which can be concealed or muddied with questionable bookkeeping. For those reasons, white-collar defendants often begin the process at an advantage, which can make federal officials more likely to extend a favorable plea bargain offer. Here are the four main types of plea bargains: 



  • Sentence Bargaining. White-collar charges are overwhelmingly classified as felonies; white-collar misdemeanors are rare. Consequently, the majority of white-collar convictions result in prison time. A sentence bargain allows defendants to plead guilty to a charge or charges in exchange for the prosecution seeking a specific sentence, i.e. reduced jail time or no prison time at all. 




  • Charge Bargaining. This is one of the most common types of plea bargains, often seen in the context of a murder suspect pleading guilty to manslaughter or the original murder charge to escape the death penalty. In white-collar crime, the defendant will simply plead guilty to a charge generally deemed lesser than the original charge. This will often have a stipulation that the defendant waives the right to appeal. 




  • Count Bargaining. When defendants seeking a deal are charged with multiple crimes,  they may strike a deal with the prosecution to plead guilty to certain charges in exchange for other charges being dropped. This is referred to as count bargaining, and it is similar to charge bargaining. 




  • Fact Bargaining. This is a crucial aspect of negotiating a plea agreement, especially in light of the federal sentencing guidelines. Certain factual aspects of a case may result in an increase in the federal sentencing guidelines range. For example, using offshore bank accounts can increase the sentencing guideline range in a white-collar case. When the prosecution agrees to fact bargaining, they agree to not use certain facts or evidence as a concession to the accused for agreeing to resolve the case in a timely fashion. 



Negotiating a favorable plea agreement is an art, not a science. While striking a deal may be a viable alternative to trial, it is imperative to understand the intended and unintended consequences of entering into a plea. If you find yourself in a situation similar to the one described above, call us today at (305) 373-4400 to receive an honest and understanding legal response to your case.

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax