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Sentences Can Be Plea Bargained

Sentences Can Be Plea Bargained

29.6.2012 10:23
Autor: Viktor Zelinka, KSB

As of the beginning of 2012, the range of prosecutable offenders was expanded to include companies. The response from most companies has been mixed, especially considering the severity of possible punishments. Thus, businesses will probably welcome the opportunity the new law gives them directly to influence the type and severity of punishment. This new provision, which has already been implemented in a number of western countries as well as in Slovakia, should save money both for the accused and the state.

What is it all about?

Provided it is clear that a crime was committed and the accused is guilty, a plea agreement can be made if the accused confesses. The public prosecutor may then start negotiating a plea agreement regardless of whether the accused requests it or not. If the prosecutor and the accused reach agreement (if the accused is willing to accept the agreed punishment), the prosecutor will submit the agreement to the court for approval. The court will then reach a decision promptly and without conducting a detailed review of the evidence. No appeals can be filed against an approved plea agreement.

Although a court-approved plea agreement will be considered a conviction, confessing to a crime can be expected to result in a milder sentence than the offender would otherwise have received. In addition, there is a further factor: if the accused consents to the agreement, prosecution by the police and public prosecutor could be less thorough. Put simply, the case would simply be “checked off”. As a result, the accused may profit from a less serious conviction or even avoid punishment for undetected minor crimes. Moreover, the confession cannot be misused in later proceedings: if the agreement is not approved, the confession will not be taken into account. However, this does not rule out the possibility of a new plea agreement.

Chance for wronged parties

The plea agreement even takes into account victims of crime. The amendment provides victims with the opportunity of taking part in the negotiation of plea agreements and claiming compensation under them. Public prosecutors will have the opportunity to agree with the accused on behalf of the victim on the type and payment of compensation. The amount of compensation, however, cannot exceed what was claimed by the victim. If the accused refuses to provide compensation for the wrongdoing willingly, the public prosecutor must inform the court of such fact when applying for the approval of the plea agreement. Such information will certainly be of relevance for the court in deciding on whether or not to approve the agreement. The amendment also empowers the court itself to rule on compensation.

The new rules are expected to motivate victims of crime to defend their claims in criminal proceedings more thoroughly than they do today. Pursuing a deal may be much simpler than filing a damages lawsuit with a civil court, which is, although a standard way of claiming damages, also a costly and arduous alternative.

Negotiating a plea agreement will certainly be challenging and will require the active cooperation of all parties. In addition, the accused will be required to have an attorney, who will – as well as overseeing negotiations – be responsible for finding and submitting new evidence that will allow them to negotiate the least severe punishment.

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