Header Ads

Plea Bargaining


What is Plea Bargaining?

Plea bargaining in criminal cases, is a process whereby the accused and the prosecution work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court approval (see Black Law Dictionary, 5th Ed., 1979, p. 1037). It usually involves the defendant’s pleading guilty to a lesser offense or to only one or some of the counts of a multi-count indictment in return for a lighter sentence than that for the graver charge. (Daan vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 163972-77, March 28, 2008)


Is plea bargaining authorized under the Rules?

Yes. Plea bargaining is authorized under Section 2, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, to wit:
SEC. 2. Plea of guilty to a lesser offense. – At arraignment, the accused, with the consent of the offended party and the prosecutor, may be allowed by the trial court to plead guilty to a lesser offense which is necessarily included in the offense charged. After arraignment but before trial, the accused may still be allowed to plead guilty to said lesser offense after withdrawing his plea of not guilty. No amendment of the complaint or information is necessary.  

Illustrations of Plea Bargaining:

1. Accused changed his pleas to a lesser or different offense in return of the dismissal of other count/s with or without credit, for the plea of guilty as a mitigating circumstance;

2. Accused changed his plea of not guilty to that of guilty to one or some of the counts of a multi-count indictment in return for the dismissal of other count/s with or without credit, for the plea of guilty as a mitigating circumstance;

3. Accused changed his plea of not guilty to that of guilty to the offense charged, in return for the offended party's waiver of the whole or part of the civil liability or damages;

4. Accused changed his plea of not guilty to that of guilty to the offense charged, in return for the elimination of one, some, or all of the generic aggravating circumstances alleged in the information/complaint; or

5. Accused plea bargain on the nature, duration or amount of the imposable penalty within the allowable range. (Benchbook for Trial Judges, Criminal Procedure)


At what stage of the proceedings may the accused plea bargain?

1.  At arraignment
2.  After arraignment but before trial

Ordinarily, plea bargaining is made during the pre-trial stage of the proceedings. Sections 1 and 2, Rule 118 of the Rules of Court, require plea bargaining to be considered by the trial court at the pre-trial conference.
SEC. 1. Pre-trial; mandatory in criminal cases. – In all criminal cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Municipal Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, the court shall, after arraignment and within thirty (30) days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused, unless a shorter period is provided for in special laws or circulars of the Supreme Court, order a pre-trial conference to consider the following:
(a) plea bargaining; 
(b) stipulation of facts;
(c) marking for identification of evidence of the parties;
(d) waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence;
(e) modification of the order of trial if the accused admits the charge but interposes a lawful defense; and
(f) such matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial of the criminal and civil aspects of the case. 
But it may also be made during the trial proper and even after the prosecution has finished presenting its evidence and rested its case. (Daan vs. Sandiganbayan)


In what instance may accused be allowed to plea bargain after the prosecution rests?

A plea of guilty to a lesser offense after the prosecution rests is allowed only when the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to establish guilt of the crime charged. (People vs. Villarama, G.R. No. 99287, June 23, 1992) 


What are the basic requisites upon which plea bargaining may be made?

Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court presents the basic requisites upon which plea bargaining may be made, i.e.,

1.   that it should be with the consent of the offended party and the prosecutor, and 
2.  that the plea of guilt should be to a lesser offense which is necessarily included in the offense charged.  


Is the acceptance of an offer to plead guilty to a lesser offense demandable by the accused as a matter of right?

The rules however use word may in the second sentence of Section 2, denoting an exercise of discretion upon the trial court on whether to allow the accused to make such plea. Trial courts are exhorted to keep in mind that a plea of guilty for a lighter offense than that actually charged is not supposed to be allowed as a matter of bargaining or compromise for the convenience of the accused.

The acceptance of an offer to plead guilty to a lesser offense is not demandable by the accused as a matter of right but is a matter that is addressed entirely to the sound discretion of the trial court. (People vs. Villarama)


When is plea bargaining not allowed?

It  is  not  allowed  under  the  Dangerous  Drugs  Act  where  the imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua to death.

No comments

Powered by Blogger.