If you are facing criminal charges for the first time in Texas, you probably
have a lot of questions and reasonably so. “Will I be incarcerated?
Will my case end in a plea deal? Will I have to go to trial?” To
help you better understand how criminal cases are processed through the
courts, we’re going to dig deeper into plea bargains, open pleas
In Texas, there are three main ways that
criminal cases are resolved, including: plea bargains, open pleas (nonnegotiated guilty
pleas), and trials. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these
mean to defendants:
1. Plea Bargains
When the prosecutor and defendant reach an agreement under the judge’s
supervision, it’s called a “plea bargain.” Generally,
what happens is the defendant pleads guilty or
nolo contendere (no contest) and they waive their right to a jury trial. In exchange, the
prosecutor recommends a punishment that the defendant can live with and
it’s up to the judge to follow or reject the recommendation.
If the judge does not accept the agreement, the defendant can withdraw
his or her plea. If the judge accepts the agreement, the defendant cannot
appeal the case without first obtaining the judge’s permission.
“The vast majority of all criminal cases are resolved by plea bargaining,”
says the State Bar of Texas Criminal Justice Section.
2. Open Pleas (Nonnegotiated Guilty Pleas)
In this case, the defendant pleads guilty or
nolo cotendere to his or her criminal charge; the defendant does not have any sort of
agreement with the prosecutor in regards to recommended punishment. The
judge then determines the sentencing. In the Texas criminal justice system,
this process is called “pleading open to the court” or a “nonnegotiated
guilty plea” because there is no plea bargain involved.
All defendants in Texas have a right to a jury trial. However, defendants
have the right to waive their rights to a trial by jury and instead have
it handled by a judge, providing the prosecutor and judge approve. The
only exception is capital felony cases involving the death penalty.
Searching for a Plano
criminal defense attorney?
Contact The Zendeh Del Law Firm, PLLC to schedule a case evaluation.