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Nolo Contendere is another term for a plea bargain. On the other hand, a plea bargain is a negotiation between a suspect or their legal team on one side and the prosecutor on the other side. The goal of a plea bargain is to reach a mutually-agreeable solution without going to court.

Research shows that most criminal cases resolve out-of-court through plea deals. You must meet with a top criminal attorney in Toronto to initiate a plea bargain.  The result of a plea agreement is a reduced sentence or a lesser charge. Simply put, A plea of Nolo Contendere is a guilty plea.

Plea Bargaining Explained 

Why would a prosecutor warm up to a plea deal? People get arrested for crimes and charged every day, which strains the court system, jails, and prisons. To solve the problem of ever-increasing cases, the court, through prosecutors, uses plea agreements. Defence attorneys can also initiate a plea bargain in the best interests of their clients. The following are the options that prosecutors may consider in a plea bargain:

  • Reduce the number of suspects’ criminal counts;
  • Reduce the weight or seriousness of an alleged charge. A felony can be reduced to a misdemeanour, while a misdemeanour can be reduced to an infraction;
  • A plea to agree to charges in exchange for ignoring other charges;
  • A reduced sentence if the defendants lack sufficient evidence or have a weak case;
  • A reduced or alternative sentence if the defendant agrees to testify against other defendants.

Common Motivations for Plea Deals

Most suspects are motivated to resolve their legal issues quickly depending on the strength and facts of their cases and the evidence submitted in court by the prosecution. That said, plea bargains help a suspect avoid: 

A likely harsher punishment if a plea agreement is not accepted and the defendant is convicted at trial

  • The cost of a trial, and
  • Avoiding incarceration.

But when are plea deals negotiated?

Plea agreements for misdemeanour cases are bargained during pretrial or during the arraignment of a suspect.

In less serious criminal cases, such as felonies, are allowed, the prosecution and defence can bargain a plea bargain at any stage of the trial as long as a verdict hasn’t been issued.

Common Alternatives Incarceration

Common incarceration alternatives can include community service, deferred judgement, enrollment in court-approved rehabilitation programs to treat drug addiction, or home monitoring. Judges are usually involved in plea agreement processes by meeting the two sides– the prosecution and defence attorneys, especially when they’re entrenched in their positions.

The judge assesses the evidence against the suspect and the available defences and advises the negotiating parties accordingly. Judges typically suggest plea bargain offers considering the evidence presented and may advise the negotiators on the admissibility of contested evidence to persuade the negotiators to reach an agreement. Do judges have to approve plea agreements?

Courts must approve plea agreements, but the good thing is that judges rarely reject plea agreements. If a judge rejects a plea agreement, the prosecutor and defence attorney should renegotiate. Accepting a plea agreement means that the defendant has agreed to the facts outlined in the complaint or has admitted the allegations against them.

Plea Agreements Must Be Voluntary

Courts typically question suspects after a plea is accepted to establish whether they understand and accept the terms of the plea voluntarily. The court ensures that the suspect knows there are no extra promises except the ones contained in the plea agreement. Additionally, the court ensures that the suspect understands that they are waiving certain rights, including:

  • The right to a trial by a jury that must make a unanimous verdict;
  • The right to subpoena witnesses– a subpoena is a writ ordering the suspect to appear in court;
  • The right to legal representation by a defence attorney of your choice;
  • The right to cross-examine witnesses brought by the prosecution;
  • The right to present witnesses and evidence;
  • The right to remain silent;
  • The right to testify or present evidence in court;
  • Waiving the right to appeal, in some cases.

In simple words, the suspect must agree to the terms of a plea agreement for it to be considered valid and binding.

Prohibitions On Plea Bargaining

Canada’s Criminal Code prohibits plea bargaining for certain cases, including:

  • Serious crimes;
  • Violent sex crimes;
  • Crimes involving firearms, and
  • Driving under the influence;

The exceptions to these rules include:

  1. Where the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to prove their claim;
  2. Where testimonies of key witnesses cannot be obtained;
  3. Where a reduction or dismissal of charges would not impact the verdict.

Nolo Contendere is legalese for plea bargains or agreements. That said, you should involve consulting a defence attorney if you’re facing a criminal charge that qualifies for plea bargaining.

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