Plea bargains can be complicated issues, but they are important to the criminal justice system. By striking a deal with the prosecution, an accused person can plead guilty to a lower charge and thereby incur a lesser penalty.
On the other hand, the prosecution will get a satisfactory resolution to the case by being able to chalk up a legal victory with a lower conviction. However, there is one serious caveat: you should never take a plea offer without a criminal defense lawyer present. Accepting a deal that you don’t fully understand could end up hurting you.
The Benefits of Plea Bargains
Plea bargaining is an integral part of our legal system and is helpful for defendants, prosecutors, and the courts.
How Defendants Benefit
The main benefit of plea bargaining for defendants is that it allows them to minimize the penalties they face. Accepting a plea deal can mean less jail time and lower fines than a defendant would receive if they were convicted of the initial charge. Additionally, plea bargaining can have the benefit of helping a defendant avoid a long and public trial.
How Prosecutors Benefit
Prosecutors tend to have very large caseloads. Offering a plea bargain to defendants presents prosecutors with the opportunity to quickly settle the matter and get it off their plate. While they may be able to secure harsher penalties if they took the case to trial, getting another conviction on their record is often good enough for them to chalk it up as a win.
How Courts Benefit
Prosecutors aren’t the only ones who feel the strain of a heavy caseload. Trials are often delayed because the court is backlogged with cases needing to be heard by judges. When prosecutors and defendants are able to successfully negotiate a plea bargain, it helps reduce the wait time for other trials.
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You Should Have a Criminal Defense Lawyer Present
When discussing any kind of deal with the prosecution or when being interviewed by law enforcement, you should have a representative of our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm with you at all times. This is because the opposing party, no matter how nice they seem, is not on your side.
Their job is not to strike the best possible deal for you. On the contrary, their job is to come away with a result that is best for them. Additionally, members of the prosecution have much more experience and knowledge of the legal system than laypeople.
In most cases, they have spent years negotiating with defense attorneys, so they know all of the strategies involved in plea bargaining. To match their experience, you need to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side who knows how to negotiate in your best interests.
It Is Almost Never Good to Take the First Offer
One principle of negotiating a plea bargain is never to take the first offer given to you by the prosecution. Since prosecutors often have a backlog of cases, they will try to offer deals in order to minimize their caseload. However, the initial offer is often little better than the penalty for a flat-out confession to the alleged offense, so it does not help the accused.
With our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers on your side, the negotiation is more even-sided. We negotiate with the prosecution to arrive at a plea bargain that actually helps you rather than just making life easier on prosecutors.
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Potential Penalties in Los Angeles
Deciding whether or not to accept a plea bargain can come down to the penalties you face if convicted of an alleged crime. For lower-level offenses, a plea bargain may not be the best option. You may instead wish to fight the accusation in court.
If there is little evidence that supports the prosecution’s case, going to court also might be the best choice. However, if you face severe penalties for a conviction, you may wish to avoid the risk altogether and plead down the charges.
In Los Angeles, the general breakdown of penalties is as follows:
- Traffic Offenses: Minor traffic violations come with fines, but more serious ones can include the loss of your license or even jail time.
- Misdemeanors: Less serious than a felony, these offenses usually have a maximum of one year in jail as well as a monetary fine.
- Felonies: Felonies are some of the more serious offenses and can have very long prison sentences as well as intense monetary fines.
- Federal Crimes: When convicted of a federal crime, you can face fines into the millions of dollars as well as years or even life in prison, depending on the severity of the offense.
- Sex Crimes: These offenses can be categorized as misdemeanors, felonies, or federal offenses. However, one difference is that they require registration as a sex offender, which can greatly impact housing and job opportunities for the rest of your life.
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Plea Bargain Options
A skilled criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can help you strike a plea bargain in a few different ways. The first is by lowering the offense. For instance, you may be charged with a lesser degree of an offense, or you may have the initial offense reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
The second way is by minimizing the penalty. While lowering the offense also reduces the cap on penalties in most cases, this second negotiation technique is totally focused on the sentence you will receive.
For example, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers may work a deal that allows you to undergo a year of probation rather than jail time. This deal will be in place even though you will be entering a “guilty” or “no contest” plea to the same initial charge.
Plea Bargains Can Get Complicated
Attempting to negotiate a plea deal on your own can be tricky. Not only are you less likely to understand the full ramifications of a deal you accept, but prosecutors are less likely to take you seriously. When you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer, they can help put you in the best position to negotiate a favorable deal.
The prosecution will know that your attorney will see past any attempts they may make to trick you into a deal that is not really in your best interest. Because of this, they will be forced to put forth a better offer if they are serious about attempting to negotiate a deal.
Let Us Know How We Can Help You
You should never go into a plea deal by yourself. At the Simmrin Law Group, our lawyers are here to help you get the best possible outcome for yourself and your family. We are available around the clock, offering a free initial consultation and case evaluation to help you determine your best legal strategy.
Simply fill out our online contact form or call us to get the help you need to secure a good plea bargain for your case.