How does plea bargaining work in criminal and VOP cases?

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How does plea bargaining work in criminal and VOP cases?

My son is in custody in Tampa on several non-violent charges: VOP (drug possessions), grand theft, tampering w/evidence. He is represented by a PD. His girlfriend called to say he is pleading out his cases. The State mentioned 20.7 years. Does that mean that is what the State is seeking, or is that the max sentence he could get, is that actually how much time he’ll get, or is the length of sentence up to the judge regardless of how much the State said?

Asked on June 23, 2009 under Criminal Law, Florida

Answers:

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

I'm not a Florida lawyer, and the procedure can differ somewhat from one state to another.  But in general, what happens in a plea bargain is that some of the charges are dropped or reduced, and the defendant pleads guilty to the remaining offenses.  There is also an agreement, usually, that the prosecutor will recommend a certain sentence, although this isn't always the case.

Usually, the judge can either accept or reject the bargain, and if it's rejected, the case can go to trial instead.  The tentative plea bargain can't be used as evidence against him, it can't even be mentioned if there's a trial.  The sentence is limited by the charges that are left in the plea bargain, but often the judge is free to sentence the defendant to more than the prosecutor recommends, although it doesn't actually happen very often.


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