What is plea bargaining?
The majority of criminal cases are settled through plea bargaining. If you have ever had a case in Dallas County, Johnson, Ellis, Denton or Tarrant County, you will know that well over 90% of all criminal cases are settled through a plea-bargain. If accused of a crime you may plead guilty or no contest to reduced charges, a reduced sentence or dismissal of charges. Think “let’s make a deal.” They offer you something, then you refuse and counter. It all depends on the evidence and for what you are being charged.
What is a pre-sentence investigation?
After you negotiate a plea or are found guilty the court will usually order a pre-sentence investigation to be done in order to assist the court in determining what sentence they will impose on you. Extenuating circumstances may help reduce the length of the sentence but a history of crime in your record may increase the length of the sentence. The court will then review the pre-sentence report along with any additional information the defense would like the court to take into consideration before the sentencing hearing.
The sentencing hearing will consist of both sides having the opportunity to have witnesses make statements to support their position. The defendant will also have an opportunity to address the court but is not required to do so.
The state has the burden of proving to the jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If found guilty you may be sentenced to imprisonment, probation, fines, restitution, and community service.