The vast majority of cases handled in the Texas criminal court system will be settled with a plea agreement. While some cases are filed on borderline evidence that may not establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, many others are actually solid cases that prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have worked on for a significant period of time. These cases generally go through a plea negotiation process where all of the material evidence is weighed by the prosecutors before agreeing to a charge reduction in association with applicable financial penalties. It is important for all defendants in Texas to understand this process.
Prosecutors often ask for more punishment than a case should merit even though they understand well the criminal law principle of punishment fitting the level of criminal activity. Maximum penalties do not fit each case even though the statutes allow harsher penalties. Additionally, prosecutors will also use a prior criminal record against defendants in making a final assessment, especially when there are victims concerned about a release.
Negotiating the agreement
After all elements of the case are discussed to set negotiation parameters, the prosecutor and criminal defense attorney discuss the level of reasonable doubt that can be established in a trial with respect to material evidence. Building reasonable doubt is the primary criminal law function of a criminal defense lawyer, and it can be established in a variety of ways. The lawyers then effectively come to an agreement on what should be offered to the defendant, who then makes the final decision.
One advantage in a plea negotiation in Texas is that prosecutors are often short on time even when they have associate attorneys. The courts are a busy environment, and time issues can be an advantage in plea negotiations as well.