Plea Bargaining with the Judge

The case is ready for trial and all parties are present. From the bench, the judge makes a final attempt to resolve the case by saying “if we need to do a trial that’s fine, and I can call for a jury right now — but I’m just letting you all know that if the defendant was willing to plead to count 1 and state was willing to dismiss count 2, I’d be inclined to give supervised probation and we could get this case wrapped up today.”

Of course every county and every judge is unique, but most criminal attorneys have at least occasionally experienced some type of participation from the bench in working out a plea. So we know that it happens, but is it actually authorized by our statutes? Should it be? If it is, what are the limits, and what’s fair game for negotiation? Are the judge’s terms binding?

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