An agreement between the defense and the prosecution in a criminal case that takes place out of court and offers benefits to both parties is called a plea deal. Generally, a defendant agrees to plead guilty to a charge or certain charges in exchange for leniency or some other concession from the prosecution. Many components can make up the plea bargaining process in New Jersey and other states.

Different kinds of bargaining are included when negotiating a plea arrangement. Charge bargaining is often used where both sides negotiate the charges a defendant faces, and a defendant might agree to enter a plea of guilty to a lesser charge if a prosecutor agrees to dismiss more serious offenses in return. Sentence bargaining occurs when a defendant pleads guilty in order to receive a specific sentence, and this usually allows the defendant to take a lighter sentence while the prosecution does not have to use time and resources proving a case.

Fact bargaining is used less than sentence and charge bargaining, and this involves the prosecution agreeing not to use certain facts as evidence while a defendant admits to other facts in court. The defendant agrees that some provable facts are true so that the prosecution does not have to spend time proving facts that a defendant has corroborated.

Plea bargaining is one tactic a criminal defense attorney might use to produce an outcome that benefits a client, and an attorney may also be able to make arrangements for probation or community service in lieu of jail time. The circumstances, evidence and charges that have been issued all influence the actions an attorney often takes when representing a client accused of drunk driving or other crimes.