Plea Bargaining

Plea Bargain vs. Trial

Most people charged with committing a crime must decide whether to go to trial or to accept a plea bargain.  Plea bargains are available to the innocent and guilty, alike.  The reason a prosecutor may engage in a plea bargain even when the prosecutor believes the defendant is guilty is they cannot go to trial on every case.  There are not enough courts or prosecutors to try every case and most prosecutors have enormous case loads.  Some cases are just weak and witnesses are unavailable or reluctant to testify, and a prosecutor may feel it is better to get a conviction and some punishment than none at all.

Likewise, even a totally innocent defendant, may want to plea bargain because you never know what will happen in trial.  If you get a good jury, you may win.  Get a bad jury and an inexperienced trial lawyer and you may lose even if you are innocent.  A negotiated plea bargain lets you know in advance what you are pleading to and the exact punishment.

Plea Bargains in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles County, prosecutors are under significant pressure to negotiate plea agreements – in California, a criminal trial costs approximately $10,000 per day to prosecute, prosecutors have heavy case loads, the jails are crowded and the criminal court calendars are full.  A plea offer is made in almost every case; but the decision about whether to accept a plea bargain belongs to the defendant alone.  It is extremely important to hire a criminal defense attorney who understands the details and consequences of a plea offer, who will aggressively negotiate when his client can get a better deal, who is willing to take a case to trial, and who has the experience it takes to win.

How Plea Bargaining Works

Plea bargaining can happen at almost any point of a criminal prosecution – from the arraignment (initial court appearance) to the steps of the courthouse on the first day of trial.  In most plea bargains, the person charged pleads guilty or “no contest” (sometimes to a lesser charge) for a less serious sentence and/or for a dismissal of certain charges.  If the defendant has been charged with felony domestic violence or misdemeanor DUI in Los Angeles, California, depending on the circumstances, the following plea bargains may be struck by the prosecutor and the defense attorney:

  • Guilty plea for misdemeanor Domestic Violence instead of felony domestic violence.
  • Guilty plea for a simple DUI (California Vehicle Code §23152) instead of a DUI with injury (California Vehicle Code §23153 Vehicle Code).
  • Guilty plea for reckless driving (non-alcohol related) instead of a standard DUI/DWI.

The prosecutor may even agree to reduce the DUI / DWI charge to a traffic infraction in some rare cases.  Plea bargain options can be complex and depend heavily on the strength or weakness of the prosecution’s case.  The prosecutor’s offer will also probably get better as the trial date gets closer.  Usually, it will not be in the defendant’s best interest to accept the first plea offer.  Before agreeing to any plea agreement, a defendant should completely understand :

  • Whether the plea bargain is really resulting in a lesser penalty than what could be expected from a trial.
  • What the actual sentence is and when the defendant will be eligible for probation or parole.
  • Whether pleading guilty will have collateral consequences; will the defendant have to register as a sex offender, get deported or lose his professional license.
  • If the plea bargain is for probation, whether the defendant could realistically comply with all of the conditions of probation.

Hire the Right Criminal Defense Attorney

It is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney with trial and negotiation experience.  An effective and experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney can properly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case and the potential penalties the defendant would be subjected to if the case went to trial and lost.

At DCS Defense, we are not afraid to take a case to trial – we never negotiate a plea agreement for our own convenience, and we will do what it takes to get the best outcome.  When we represent a client, we strive to provide accurate information, to communicate options, and to completely answer questions.  We want our clients to feel informed, and to be secure with the decisions they make.  Past clients constantly reaffirm our proven track record of having criminal charges dismissed or reduced.

For aggressive and effective plea bargaining, contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Damian Siwek at DCS Defense.