Most criminal cases in Los Angeles are settled by plea bargain. A plea bargain is an agreement made between you and the prosecutor wherein you agree to plead guilty to a charge against you, provided the prosecution offers you a deal in exchange.
A plea bargain deal can mean a reduced prison sentence (or none at all), a reduction in fees, or even the dismissal of the other charges against you. In some cases it may be the right option, but in others it can be the worst possible choice. Let us inform you of your legal options.
In 1982, voters in the state of California passed a measure called Proposition 8. Proposition 8 bans plea bargaining at the indictment stage when the charges fall into one of the following categories:
- A serious felony, such as one in which a gun was used
- Certain violent sex crimes
- Driving under the influence
However, plea bargains are still possible despite the ban because the ban only pertains to the indictment stage of the case. A defendant can still accept a plea bargain:
- After arraignment
- Before a preliminary hearing
- During a grand jury investigation
The majority of plea bargaining usually takes place during these stages anyway, so the passing of Proposition 8 was largely symbolic with very little effect on the ways in which these cases are generally handled.
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The Benefits of Taking a Plea Bargain
In many situations, taking a plea bargain is the ideal way to settle a case for the defense. This is because the benefits of accepting a plea bargain are numerous and can include:
- Less, or no, jail time
- A reduction in charges
- A quick, concrete resolution without the risks involved with going to trial
Our lawyers at the Simmrin Law Group can help you decide whether the plea bargain being offered to you is in your best interests.
The Risks of Taking a Plea Bargain
Often, judges will be quick to enter a plea bargain because it frees up a case on their already overcrowded calendars. They are not looking out for you. They assume that if you are accepting the plea bargain, you have thought it over or talked it over with your attorney and have decided that the deal is acceptable.
However, a judge’s tendency to enter plea bargains also frees up some space in overcrowded prisons. If they know you won’t be doing much time anyway, they’re more willing to enter a plea bargain to keep you out of jail.
The problem, however, with going by the judge is that otherwise innocent defendants are often willing to accept a deal that may not be right for them because they believe they have no choice. Ultimately, whether or not you agree to a plea bargain is a tough decision and one that an experienced lawyer can help guide you through.
The only way to know whether the plea bargain is right for you is to decide what your chances are of winning at trial. The Simmrin Law Group can review your case and help you determine whether you should proceed to trial or take the deal.
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When You Should Agree to a Plea Bargain
There is no ideal time to take a plea bargain. In other words, you can accept a plea bargain whenever it is offered to you. You don’t have to wait for the case to drag on or for it to be on the eve of trial. When the prosecution offers you a deal, and if, after discussing it with your lawyer, you believe it may be the best possible option for you, you can choose to accept it.
In a way, a criminal case is similar to a matrimonial case in that the parties continue to go back and forth on the deal until they can come to a mutual agreement. However, also like a matrimonial case, the deal may only be offered for a limited time. If the parties cannot agree, the case will proceed to trial.
However, the timing of the offer of the plea bargain – something you have no control over – can negatively impact you. For instance, if the offer is made too early, there may not be enough information available to obtain a better deal. And if the offer is made too late, then you are forced to make a snap decision or else leave your fate up to trial.
You shouldn’t be facing a criminal trial alone. Not only can a conviction take a serious toll on your personal and professional life, but it can be a frustrating waste of time, money, and other resources if you lose. The lawyers at Simmrin Law Group have years of experience handling all kinds of criminal matters.
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Make Sure to Negotiate
One of the most important things to remember when dealing with a plea bargain is that the initial offer from the prosecution is likely far closer to their ideal outcome than to the limits of what they are willing to agree. Before taking any deal offered, you should always speak with a lawyer. Your lawyer can help you to assess the deal and decide on a counter offer.
You will likely start close to your ideal solution and keep negotiating back and forth until you meet somewhere in the middle with a deal that works for both sides. While the prosecution might present their first offer as the best you are going to get, the truth is, they will likely be willing to move from their initial position, especially if you have an experienced lawyer.
Prosecutors get paid to get convictions and process as many cases as possible as quickly as they can. Unless absolutely necessary, in most cases, they would rather work out a deal quickly than take a case to trial where they may lose and will certainly spend a lot of time.
Public Defenders Are Overworked
Unfortunately, just like with prosecutors, public defenders are under a lot of pressure to resolve cases as quickly as possible so that they can move on to the next file on their desk. While these lawyers are fighting for you, their negotiating position is far weaker than a private criminal defense lawyer.
A private defense attorney is a lot more convincing when they reject an offer and say that they would prefer to take their chances in court. With a public defender, the prosecutor knows that their adversary doesn’t want to go to court any more than they do. Because of this, they can hold firm to a less agreeable offer than they might be willing to agree to with a private lawyer.
If You’re Considering a Plea Bargain, We Can Help!
Here at the Simmrin Law Group, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have helped hundreds of clients determine whether a plea bargain was right for them. Now it’s your turn. Give us a call today. We’re ready to answer your questions and help you determine your next step with absolutely no obligation to retain.