Plea bargaining is a process to resolve a criminal case without a jury trial on the merits of a case. A prosecutor will evaluate the facts, circumstances, and applicable law of the case to make a determination of what punishment (i.e. sentence) to offer a defendant in return for his plea of guilty to the charge in the case. The defendant, in consultation with his lawyer, will decide whether or not to accept the plea bargain.
There are advantages to both the State and the defendant to arrive at an agreement in many cases. However, a defendant has the right to reject a plea offer and request a trial by jury. If the defendant accepts the plea bargain, the case is set for a plea hearing before the court.
A written plea agreement is signed by the defendant and the attorneys and the defendant pleads guilty. If the court approves the plea bargain, punishment is assessed in accordance with the plea bargain agreement and the defendant begins to serve his sentence. Any proposed plea agreement must be approved by the court before it is entered.