The majority of criminal cases don’t go to trial to be decided by a jury. They are usually settled with a plea deal between the defendant and prosecutors.
Prosecutors typically want to save the time, resources and expense of taking a case to trial and risking a not guilty verdict or hung jury so they offer a defendant a lower charge and/or lighter sentence in exchange for pleading guilty. Meanwhile, unless they are not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, many defendants opt to accept a deal that could save them from jail time or otherwise lessen the consequences.
Once a plea deal has been agreed upon, it goes to a judge for final approval. In most cases, judges give their approval to the deal. However, as with most everything in the justice system, there are exceptions.
Why do judges sometimes reject plea deals?
They may reject a plea deal if they believe it doesn’t provide justice. For example, they might believe that a defendant should stand trial for their alleged crime. They may believe it’s in the best interests of the community, the victim and their family to see the defendant go through the process of a trial.
A judge may believe that a plea deal is either too harsh or too lenient. They may refuse to accept the deal as presented. Generally, though, as long as a plea deal is reasonable for the crime alleged (and which the defendant, by accepting the deal, is pleading guilty), a judge will accept it.
Defendants should never try to plea bargain with prosecutors on their own. They do this regularly and are typically adept at it. It’s always crucial to have experienced legal guidance to help you determine whether to even enter into a plea bargaining situation and, if so, what you will and will not accept.