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What Is a Plea Bargain?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP February 23, 2022

Plea bargains are frequently used in the Colorado criminal courts to resolve criminal cases before they go to trial. Plea bargains are often beneficial to both the defendant and prosecutor; it reduces the penalties faced by the defendant while resulting in a criminal conviction for the government. Learn more about plea bargains to determine if this is the right course of action for your criminal case and future.

What Does a Plea Bargain Entail?

A plea bargain is an agreement between a prosecutor and defendant in a criminal case, where the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no-contest to a lesser charge in exchange for certain benefits, such as the prosecution dropping additional charges or a judge granting a more lenient sentence. There are three different types of plea bargains in Colorado:

  1. Charge bargaining. Charge bargaining is a plea deal that involves a defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge, such as a felony being reduced to a misdemeanor.
  2. Sentence bargaining. Sentence bargaining also involves pleading guilty, but it is done in return for a lighter sentence, such as avoiding jail.
  3. Fact bargaining. Fact bargaining refers to a plea deal where the prosecutor agrees to a set of facts about the crime, resulting in a lighter sentence for the defendant.

The type of plea bargain that is available to a criminal defendant typically depends on the nature and severity of the charges and the defendant’s criminal history. Keep in mind that even if a defendant accepts a plea deal, a judge in Colorado must approve it before it will take effect. If the conditions of the plea bargain are not fair to either party, a judge may refuse to honor the agreement.

The Pros and Cons of a Plea Bargain

Like all decisions made during a criminal case, taking a plea bargain comes with both potential pros and cons. Whether or not to accept a plea deal is an incredibly important decision that should only be made after carefully considering all of your options, including pleading not guilty. A plea deal may not always be the best choice for a criminal defendant. Some of the pros and cons of this option include:

  • Pro: A plea bargain can negotiate the charges and penalties that you face down, resulting in a lighter sentence.
  • Con: Taking a plea bargain means that you are pleading guilty to the crime or not contesting the charges.
  • Pro: Accepting a plea bargain allows you to avoid the stress and uncertainty of a criminal trial, providing some sense of security.
  • Con: Even if you know you are innocent, accepting a plea bargain can have lasting criminal consequences.

In the right circumstances, a plea bargain could be the best option for you as a criminal defendant. It is important to carefully weigh the advantages and drawbacks of taking a plea bargain with your criminal defense attorney, however, before making your choice. While a plea bargain may lessen the penalties that you face as a defendant, it can still have lasting consequences on your life and future.

Should You Take a Plea Bargain?

The answer to this question depends on the specific facts of your case and cannot be found online. You must schedule a consultation with a Boulder criminal defense lawyer to discuss whether a plea bargain is the right option for you. An attorney will review the facts of your case, such as the severity of the charges entered against you and your criminal background, to determine if taking a plea deal is in your best interests.

If your lawyer believes that a plea bargain is the right choice, he or she can help you negotiate with the prosecution for the best possible arrangement. If you are a first-time offender, for example, you may be eligible to take advantage of special programs offered by the courts to avoid a permanent criminal record. Your attorney can handle plea bargaining to fight for the best possible case outcome while you focus on your future.


For more information about plea bargains in criminal cases in Colorado, call Dolan + Zimmerman LLP at (303) 593-1874 to request a case consultation.