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How Do Plea Agreements Work in the Texas Criminal Justice System?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Austin Criminal Defense AttorneyMany criminal cases do not end up going to trial. Instead the defendant – the person accused of the crime – ends up accepting a plea bargain offer from the prosecutor. This offer is usually worked out between the prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney. It involves the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge or reduced penalty. Once the defendant enters their guilty plea with the court, the judge presiding over the case usually accepts the plea as long as it falls within the state’s sentencing guidelines. 

However, something that all defendants should keep in mind is that the judge does have the option to reject the plea bargain and the case will either go to trial where a jury will decide the outcome, or the prosecutor and defense attorney go back to the drawing board to come up with a plea agreement the court will accept.

Objection to Plea Bargain by the Victim’s Family

When a prosecutor is considering a plea bargain with a defendant who is accused of a violent crime and/or one that involved loss of life, he or she will often consult with the victim or with the victim’s family if the victim did not survive. But in a case currently working its way through the Texas criminal justice system, it is the victim’s family that is asking the judge to reject the plea agreement the prosecutor worked out with the defendant.

Three years ago, a defendant was driving on Texas 71 and – according to witness statements – he was tailgating other vehicles. At one point, he sped up into the no-passing zone center lane to pass a vehicle he had been tailgating. That vehicle cut the defendant’s vehicle off, causing it to swerve into a passing lane but then spin out of control into oncoming traffic. The defendant’s vehicle then slammed into the victim’s vehicle. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. The defendant was charged with vehicular homicide.

Last month, the defendant pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide after the prosecutor agreed to ask the court for a sentence of three years’ probation. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for next week. The victim’s family, upset at the plea bargain, say they intend to ask the judge to sentence the defendant to the maximum penalty under Texas law for criminally negligent homicide – two years in jail.

Ultimately, it will be up to the judge to decide what sentence the defendant will receive for his guilty plea.

Contact an Austin Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a crime, the best thing you can do is speak to a seasoned Austin criminal law attorney to find out what your best legal options are based on the circumstances of the case. In many situations, a plea agreement may be your best option to avoid jail time or other harsh consequences of a jury conviction. Call Morales Law Office, Attorneys at Law, PLLC. at 512-474-2222 to schedule a free consultation and find out how our firm can help.



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