Plea Bargaining In San Diego, CA
A plea bargain is an agreement whereby the defendant in a criminal case agrees to plead guilty to a certain charge in exchange for some concession from the prosecutor – in order to avoid a trial. The most common types of pleas are guilty and no contest. In a guilty plea, the defendant admits to committing a certain crime, while a no contest plea means that he doesn’t admit or deny committing the crime, but agrees to take the punishment.
Common plea bargain arrangements include charge, count, sentence, and fact bargaining. In charge bargaining, the defendant pleads guilty to a less serious crime than the original charge. Count bargaining involves pleading guilty to a subset of multiple original charges. In sentence bargaining, the defendant pleads guilty after both sides agree on the sentence the prosecution will recommend. Fact bargaining involves the defendant pleading in exchange for the prosecution’s agreement to stipulate certain facts that affect how the defendant is punished under the sentencing guidelines.
Any plea bargain must be approved by the court. The judge must talk to the defendant in person in open court to ensure that the plea is voluntary, and isn’t the result of coercion or false promises. He will also explain to the defendant all of the rights he’s waving with the plea, as well as the consequences of the plea.
Plea bargains allow both parties to avoid going through a long criminal trial, and may allow defendants to avoid the risk of conviction on a more severe charge. They sometimes require defendants to do more than merely plead guilty, such as testifying for the state in cases against other defendants.
Accepting A Plea Bargain Versus Standing Trial
Most people facing criminal charges must decide whether to go to trial or accept a plea deal. Since there are insufficient courts and prosecutors to try every case, and many prosecutors are faced with enormous caseloads, plea bargains are available to both the innocent and the guilty. Even when the prosecutor believes that the defendant is guilty, they can’t go to trial on every case. Some cases are simply weak, and a prosecutor might prefer to get a conviction and some punishment, rather than risk a not guilty verdict.
Similarly, even a completely innocent defendant might prefer a plea bargain, since the results of a trial are never guaranteed. While a good jury might result in a not guilty verdict, a bad jury and inexperienced trial lawyer could mean a conviction even if you’re innocent. With a plea bargain, you know in advance what you’re agreeing to, and precisely what the punishment will be. Defendants also avoid the time, expense, and publicity of a trial.
San Diego County Plea Bargains
San Diego County prosecutors are under a lot of pressure to negotiate plea deals, since California criminal trials cost around $10,000 per day to prosecute. Prosecutors are faced with substantial caseloads, county jails are already crowded, and the criminal court calendars are full. The prosecution saves the time and expense of a lengthy trial, and the court system is spared the burden of conducting a trial on every crime charged. Plea offers are made in nearly every case, but the decision to accept or reject them always rests with the defendant alone.
It’s crucial that you hire a criminal defense attorney who understands the details and repercussions of a plea offer, and who knows how to aggressively negotiate when his client can get a better deal. A plea bargain can be a victory in some cases – especially when an attorney successfully negotiates a reduced sentence, or avoids county jail or state prison completely.
How Plea Bargains Work
Plea bargaining typically takes place over the phone or at the prosecutor’s office, and frequently at a pretrial conference in the judge’s chambers. A plea deal can be reached at virtually any point during a criminal prosecution – from the initial court appearance, to the first day of trial. The prosecutor’s offer tends to get better as the trial date gets closer, so it rarely is in the defendant’s best interest to accept the first plea offer.
Before accepting any plea agreement, a defendant should understand:
- The sentence, including when he will be eligible for parole or probation.
- If he will be able to realistically comply with all of the conditions of probation.
- If he will receive a lesser penalty than what can be expected from a trial.
- If pleading guilty will involve collateral consequences.
Hire The Right Attorney
It’s important to hire a criminal defense lawyer who has trial and negotiation experience. An accomplished San Diego plea bargaining attorney can properly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case – as well as the potential punishment the defendant might face if convicted at trial.
The Law Office of Gregory Garrison has successfully represented defendants facing criminal charges ranging from shoplifting to murder. Those years of experience can now be put to work in achieving the best possible outcome for your case. We’re always willing to take a case to trial, and never negotiate a plea agreement for our own convenience.
When representing a client, we strive to offer accurate information, provide options, and completely answer questions. We want our clients to make informed decisions. For a free, confidential consultation, please call the Law Office of Gregory Garrison to discuss the facts of your case.