A plea bargain (also plea agreement, plea deal or copping a plea) is an agreement in a criminal case whereby the prosecutor offers the defendant the opportunity to plead guilty, usually to a lesser charge or to the original with a recommendation of a lighter than the maximum sentence.

A plea bargain allows criminal defendants to avoid the risk of conviction at trial on the original more serious charge. For example, a criminal defendant charged with a felony theft charge, the conviction of which would require imprisonment in state prison, may be offered the opportunity to plead guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge, which may not carry jail time.

In cases such as an automobile collision when there is a potential for civil liability against the defendant, the defendant may agree to plead no contest or “guilty with a civil reservation”, which essentially is a guilty plea without admitting civil liability.

Plea bargaining can present a dilemma to defense attorneys, in that they must choose between vigorously seeking a good deal for their present client, or maintaining a good relationship with the prosecutor, for the sake of helping future clients.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, DO NOT ACCEPT A PLEA BARGIN UNTIL YOU SPEAK WITH A QUALIFIED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER