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Criminal procedure

plea bargain

The government may offer the defendant in a criminal prosecution a plea bargain or "deal" to avoid the time, cost, and risk of failing to secure a conviction at trial—and the defendant may accept such a plea deal to reduce the risk of a greater sentence. A defendant may only plead guilty if they actually committed the crime and admit to doing so in open court before the judge. When the defendant admits to the crime, they agree they are guilty and agree that they may be sentenced by the judge presiding over the court—the only person authorized to impose a sentence.

Sometimes the defendant and the government/prosecution agree that the defendant will plead guilty—sometimes to lesser charges than the defendant is facing—and agree what the punishment will be—subject to the court’s approval of the plea deal. And sometimes the defendant will agree to plead guilty and the government/prosecution will agree not to recommend an enhanced sentence—but it is up to the judge to determine how the defendant will be sentenced or punished.

If a defendant pleads guilty there is no trial and the next step is to prepare for a sentencing hearing.

In Texas, plea bargaining is a common practice in the criminal justice system where the government (prosecution) may offer the defendant a plea deal to avoid the uncertainties of a trial. The defendant must admit guilt in open court and can only plead guilty if they actually committed the crime. The plea agreement might involve pleading guilty to lesser charges or receiving a recommendation for a lighter sentence. However, any plea deal is subject to the approval of the presiding judge, who has the sole authority to impose a sentence. The judge is not bound by the prosecution's recommendations and has the discretion to determine the final sentence. If the defendant accepts a plea deal and pleads guilty, there will be no trial, and the case proceeds directly to a sentencing hearing where the judge will issue the sentence based on the plea and other relevant factors.

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