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Criminal defense plea bargaining is a win-win situation

Plea bargains have advantages for both sides in a Baton Rouge criminal case. Opportunities for plea deals are not always available but when the option is permitted, defendants can benefit immensely.

Prosecutors negotiate agreements with criminal defense attorneys for several reasons. A guilty plea avoids a trial and the state's associated time, effort and expense to carry the case through the full legal process. Plea agreements often include a reduced sentence, which allows the state to bypass or spend less for the defendant's imprisonment.

A man charged with the destruction of vital evidence after the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill will not be imprisoned. The 62-year-old ex-Halliburton director might have been jailed as long as a year for the misdemeanor charge. Instead, a plea deal allowed him to walk out of the courtroom a free man.

The New Orleans judge might have ignored the prosecutor's guidelines – probation or a jail term no longer than six months - in favor of a harsher sentence. Instead, he chose probation, a $1,000 fine and mandatory community service.

The judge felt the defendant's apology was convincing. The jail-free sentence was granted, in part, because the court felt the man had "learned from this mistake."

The defendant had been accused of ordering two Halliburton employees to delete data about the Macondo well cementing work, after an explosion killed nearly a dozen workers at the Deepwater Horizon rig. Halliburton officials separately pleaded guilty to a charge related to the data deletion and paid a $200,000 fine.

Halliburton then voluntarily contributed $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the pollution caused by the subsequent oil spill.

A criminal defense attorney may negotiate a plea deal including a reduced fine, charge or sentence for a defendant. An agreement eliminates the stress of uncertainty about a jury's decision and saves the defendant additional legal fees and court costs. However, plea deals are not appropriate for every case and therefore, should be discussed at length with a legal professional.

Source: The Associated Press, "Halliburton manager gets probation" Michael Kunzelman, Jan. 21, 2014

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