Negotiated Pleas - Criminal Law
Deciding whether to go to trial or accept a plea bargain is one of the most important decisions anyone charged with a crime in California will need to make. A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case where a defendant is given the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge or to receive a lighter sentence. Plea bargains are subject to each court's approval, and every state has different rules and jurisdictions. Plea bargains can be advantageous to the prosecution and the defense. In some cases, the prosecution would be open to negotiating a plea deal with a defendant even though they may be confident of getting a guilty verdict. On the other hand, in some cases it may be most beneficial to the defendant, although he or she may be innocent, to accept a plea bargain because going to trial may be risky because you can win or lose. Essentially, you are putting your life in the hands of the jury and your trial attorney. A negotiated plea bargain lets you know in advance what charges you will be pleading to and what your exact sentencing or punishment will be.
Trial versus Plea Bargain
In the United States, approximately 90% of criminal cases are settled by a plea bargain. Plea bargains are offered in most California cases; however, it is entirely up to the defendant whether or not to accept it. Every defendant has the right to a fair trial. Whatever route you decide to take, it is critical to retain the services of a criminal defense lawyer who fully understands the consequences of a plea offer and will aggressively negotiate the best deal his or her client can get. It is also important that you choose an attorney who is willing to take the case to trial if necessary and has the necessary trial experience to win the case.
How a Plea Bargain Works
A plea bargain can occur at any stage of a case. For example, it could occur at the defendant's arraignment, which is the initial court appearance where he or she pleads guilty or not guilty, or at any point preceding a trial. Typically what occurs in a plea bargain is that the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge and accepts lesser penalties. For example, a felony DUI charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor DUI, or a felony assault may be reduced to a simple misdemeanor assault. Also, a misdemeanor charge could potentially be reduced to an infraction. There is a range of possibilities.
Before a defendant accepts a plea in any case, it is crucial to ask a few important questions. Is the plea bargain going to result in a lesser penalty than what can be expected from a trial? What is the actual sentence? What will the guilty plea entail? For example, will the defendant lose his or her driver's license? Is there jail time involved? Will the defendant lose a professional license? Would he or she have to register as a sex offender? It is extremely important to understand all aspects of the plea deal before agreeing to it as it could affect your life in the long-term or even permanently.
Contacting an Experienced Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, contact experienced Santa Clarita criminal defense lawyer Daniel Kann. A former deputy public defender, he has extensive experience negotiating plea deals on a variety of cases. At the Law Offices of Daniel Kann, our lawyers will analyze all options that exist and advise the client on the best possible course of action. Our goal is to provide you with all the facts you need to make an informed decision in order to make the choice that is best for you. Call us today to discuss your case.