Articles Tagged with plea bargains

We see in movies, and even in the news, stories of suspects “flipping” on one another.  What does it really mean? Generally speaking, it is a matter of sharing evidence that a prosecutor values in exchange for benefits to one’s own legal situation. The prosecutor may have bigger fish to fry and be content with reducing or eliminating charges against someone lower on the totem pole in order to get to a  bigger fish. This is more formally referred to as turning state’s evidence. What could that mean for the typical defendant? 

Plea Bargaining Federal Rules

There are federal rules that must be followed when a defendant utilizes their constitutional right to turn state’s evidence. In exchange for the defendant pleading either guilty or nolo contendere, or making a plea conditional on a review by an appellate court, the plea deal process would move forward. It would ensure that the defendant is advised and questioned under oath in open court, and several issues must be clarified:

  • The defendant does have the right to plead not guilty;
  • A defendant has the right to counsel and to have that counsel appointed by the court if needed;
  • The defendant’s right to have counsel present throughout all proceedings and the trial;
  • The government has the right to use information provided under oath if prosecuting false statements or perjury;
  • The defendant may choose to plead guilty but must understand the potential consequences of such a plea;
  • Maximum penalties associated with such charges, including possible incarceration, fines, probation, and parole must be spelled out to the defendant;
  • Mandatory minimum penalties for each of the charges must be clear;
  • There may be court-ordered restitution assigned to the defendant;
  • The court has the right to order a special assessment;
  • A judge must adhere to sentencing guidelines ;
  • A defendant’s right to testify at trial, to refrain from incriminating themselves, to confront accusatorial witnesses, and compel witness testimony;
  • A defendant waives the above rights in the event a plea deal is accepted;
  • There is no ability to appeal if a plea deal is accepted;
  • There is a likelihood of deportation for non-citizens.

Other Requirements

The court must ensure that the defendant was not forced, coerced, or threatened to make a plea and that it was entered into voluntarily. In open court an exchange between the judge and the defendant must establish that the agreement was arrived at fairly and that there was a factual basis for the plea, meaning evidence that the defendant really is guilty of the crimes listed in the plea agreement. 

Changing One’s Mind

A defendant may withdraw from such an agreement for any reason prior to the court’s accepting it, or with a reasonable explanation if the court has accepted the plea but not yet imposed a sentence. Otherwise, it may be too late for a defendant to change one’s mind. Continue reading

More than 90% of all criminal cases do not make it to jury trial. Instead, they end in plea bargains – sometimes to the benefit, and sometimes to the detriment of criminal defense clients.

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest (nolo contendere) in exchange for the prosecutor to drop one or more charges, reduce a charge to a less serious offense, or recommend to the judge a specific sentence (which is usually a more lenient sentence). As our court system becomes more crowded, prosecutors and judges alike feel increased pressure to move cases quickly through the system, and trial is a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. As a result, both criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors typically strike up a deal to avoid the headache.

Plea bargains may occur any time after the arrest and before the trial.

Negotiating plea bargains is a relatively simply strategy that most attorneys will initially attempt on behalf of their clients. Over time, prosecutors and police have taken up a few tricks which will affect a defendant’s ability to negotiate a favorable plea bargain, especially without the assistance of an attorney. For one, they typically over-charge defendants in order to set the bar high prior to entering into plea negotiations and to get a higher rate of ‘guilty’ pleas or conviction rates. Additionally, to deal with a large influx of similar cases, prosecutor’s offices may offer defendants a standard deal, which is offered to all defendants charged with the same crime. As a result, sometimes it is relatively easy to get a lesser charge, but sometimes defendants are also faced with feeling ‘pushed’ into pleading guilty for something, in a plea deal because of overzealous prosecution.

Plea Deals in DUIs

Plea deals are regularly sought for California DUI cases because the penalties are so severe. The most frequently reduced DUI charges are a “wet” reckless and a “dry” reckless under the CA Vehicle Code 23103.

A wet reckless is typically the first level of DUI reduction that the prosecution will consider. It just refers to a crime where alcohol was involved). If you are convicted with a “wet reckless” instead of a DUI, you will face less jail time, reduced fines, and not mandatory license suspension. A skilled attorney may even get a potential DUI conviction down to a “dry” reckless, which means you will be charged with misdemeanor reckless driving where alcohol was not involved. Continue reading

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