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The vast majority of criminal cases in the United States resolve with some sort of plea. Many defendants charged with a crime choose to go to court without an attorney and enter a guilty plea of some sort. Other defendants enter negotiated plea agreements.

Often, a plea agreement can minimize the damages that a criminal case can impose against a defendant, but criminal laws are complex and the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can vary widely based upon the nature of the allegations.

The United States Supreme Court ruled this week that a defendant's right to effective criminal representation extends to any plea agreement or plea offer that a prosecutor may present. The court essentially ruled, in a split decision, that plea agreements are an important aspect of criminal defense.

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Allegations of domestic violence have followed actor Mel Gibson for some time now. Prosecutors have had the matter under consideration since last year. Sources indicate that Gibson and prosecutors have reached a plea agreement in the matter, which reportedly will be resolved in court this afternoon.

No felony domestic violence charges have been filed in the matter. Sources indicated earlier this week that prosecutors and Gibson reached an agreement for Gibson to plead no contest to misdemeanor assault charges in the matter. A no contest plea has the same legal effect as a guilty plea in a California criminal court. Prosecutors are expected to file the charge today, with a hearing later in the day to enter the no contest plea.

The allegations originally arose last year. Gibson's former girlfriend -- the mother of a daughter with Gibson--raised accusations that the actor hit her in their Malibu home. The ex-girlfriend also claimed that Gibson threatened her with a gun.

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An 18-year-old Fallbrook man entered a plea agreement that may expose him in the future to California's three strikes law. The 18-year-old agreed to plead guilty to three separate counts of California burglary charges. Each separate conviction qualifies as a strike under the California three strikes law.

Prosecutors reportedly dropped other charges pending against the teen in exchange for the three strikes plea agreement. The teen agreed to a three and a half year prison sentence under the current plea agreement. Actual sentencing in the matter is scheduled for April 6.

Prosecutors will have the ability to seek a sentence of 25 years to life if the teen is charged with any offenses in the future that qualify under the California three strikes law.

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