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Plea bargains important part of Canadian criminal process

According to the guidelines for Disposition Agreements between Crown and Defence, resolution agreements or plea agreements "further the fair and efficient administration of justice." It encourages prosecutors to participate in such discussions and to follow Early Case Resolutions Guidelines to resolve cases quickly when possible.

However, plea agreements are also at the discretion of the prosecutors and they must be conducted with flexibility, consistency, fairness and transparency. The prosecutors should always consider the victim's interest and must follow the Victims of Crime Protocol and the Victims of Crime Guidelines. The plea bargains must also not have the public believe that the integrity of the administration has been compromised.

Plea bargains may be offered on offences that are up to the prosecution's standard. These include:

-- The decision to accept a guilty plea to a lesser offence or an included offence or to proceed with charges.

-- Staying proceedings or withdrawing charges.

-- Consolidating charges.

-- Diverting charges to a program before disposition.

The repudiation of a negotiated resolution must happen only rarely and only when doing so would prevent the administration from being in disrepute. "The Crown may simply have to live with the initial decision that has been made. To hold otherwise would mean that defence lawyers would not have confidence in the finality of negotiated agreements reached with front-line Crown counsel."

Plea bargains are an integral part of the Canadian legal system; however, it is up to the prosecution whether to engage in such negotiations. Your lawyer in Calgary or Alberta can help determine if a negotiated resolution is in your best interests or if the case should go to trial.

Source: Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, "Disposition agreements between Crown and defence," accessed Feb. 19, 2016

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