There are many reasons why it may be beneficial to you for both sides in the criminal justice process to talk to each other. Negotiating charges (sometimes referred to as a plea bargain) is a valid and useful tool in the criminal lawyer’s skillset. In negotiating charges, the aim is to achieve an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the prosecutor agrees to drop some charges or reduce a charge to a less serious offence if you agree to plead guilty to the reduced charge(s).
Negotiating charges with prosecutors is not “horse trading”, but rather relies on robust discussions about the availability and strength of the evidence. Unfortunately, it is all too common that police are overly enthusiastic about laying charges and will lay too many or too serious a charge against you.
For example, there may be evidence that:
- You committed some (but not all) of the offences;
- Didn’t commit the serious charge that police allege (but did commit a less serious offence); or
- The charge may be right but the “facts” they allege are wrong (e.g. it wasn’t a punch, it was a slap)
In some appropriate circumstances, telling us to negotiate the charges on your behalf will allow you to avoid a lengthy criminal trial or the risk of conviction at trial on a more serious charge.
Unlike in the United States, we do not have sentence bargaining in Queensland – this is because the appropriate sentence is said to be a matter for the Court.