How To Get A Better Plea Bargain In A California Criminal Case
What Is A Plea Bargain or Plea Agreement?
A plea bargain (also known as plea agreement or plea deal) is an arrangement in which you agree to plead guilty to one or more offenses in return for getting a less severe punishment. More criminal charges than not get resolved this way in The Golden State. Almost any type of criminal charge applies.
Generally, a plea bargain involves you pleading guilty or no-contest (nolo contendere) to a lesser crime such as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. It could also mean getting probation instead of a jail sentence, or at least getting a more lenient sentence.
Prosecution Tactics To Force A Plea
Prosecutors might charge you with the most serious offense(s) available to intimidate you into accepting a plea bargain. For example, if the prosecutor could charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor given the same evidence, then the prosecutor might be inclined to charge you with a felony. In fact, in California, a wobbler is an offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Another maneuver by prosecutors is to charge you with multiple offenses each of which potentially carries significant fines or jail sentences.
Rather than negotiate with the prosecutor, you could aim for an open plea with the judge. This is where, without a prosecutor intervening, you plead no contest or guilty to the charges brought against you. A significant advantage of this is that the judge decides your sentence and might cut you more slack than a prosecutor would. The judge might analyze your case in a more favorable light, taking certain things into account that a prosecutor might overlook.
Pros, Cons Of Taking The Plea Bargain
First of all, with a plea bargain, you would typically avoid the worst case scenario of receiving a maximum jail sentence. Unfortunately, even with the best defense, some jury decisions can be hard to predict. The risk of an adverse decision might be more than you are willing or able to endure given your circumstances. Secondly, by entering into a plea agreement, you avoid the case dragging out for months while your fate hangs in the balance. Trials are often a long, arduous process which can become costly both in a financial and a mental sense. It can be stressful to say the least. Finally, a felony is obviously worse than a misdemeanor on your record, so if given the chance to avoid a felony, it could make sense to take it.
However, if you take the plea bargain, then you might be giving up your rights including the right to a jury trial, to confront and cross-examine witnesses, to present a defense, to appeal your case, and to even own a gun. Also, it is typically more difficult to appeal a case in which you have voluntarily admitted your guilt versus being found guilty by a jury. Moreover, if you plead no contest, then you will be convicted, and this plea could be used against you in a future civil case. You also might face more serious penalties for a future offense by having already pleaded guilty or no contest. And if you are not a citizen of the United States, then your guilty or no contest plea might result in your deportation.
Of course, if you didn’t commit the crime, then accepting a plea bargain can be humiliating since you would be essentially agreeing to be found guilty of something. Any criminal conviction might cause you problems when trying to land a job, obtain a lease or loan, or get a professional license.
Hiring A Plea Bargain Lawyer In California
With so much on the line in your case, it is essential that you review your plea bargain with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can, among other things: evaluate your case; analyze your charges and defenses; ensure that your rights are protected; and help you determine whether taking a plea bargain is in your best interest. The attorneys at My Rights Law – Criminal & DUI Attorneys have extensive experience protecting the rights of the accused. We are on your side. If you have been criminally charged in California, call (888) 702-8882 or contact us for a free consultation with one of our attorneys today.