The plea bargaining stage happens throughout the entirety of the case. It’s nothing more than communicating with the D.A. and trying to determine if there’s a way to resolve the case without going to trail.
There are a multitude of ways to do that.
There are Several Elements of a Plea Bargain
I often tell my clients that trying to reach an agreement with the D.A. is similar to watching the TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal.” You wear a goofy costume, and if you do that, they pick you and give you some money.
Then they say, “You can keep your money or trade it in for whatever is behind door #1, door #2 or door #3.” If you’ve ever watched the show, you know that sometimes door #1 has a new car behind it… and sometimes it has a pile of horse manure!
In plea bargaining, instead of money, you have your Constitutional Rights:
- You have a right to an attorney.
- You have a right to a trial with a judge and jury.
- You have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- You have a right to confront your accusers.
- You have the right to call witnesses, and if they don’t come voluntarily, you can subpoena them.
- You have the right to remain silent.
- You have the right to have the jury instructed that they should not draw any inferences from your silence.
- You have the right to testify.
- You have the right to claim affirmative defenses.
- You have the right to appeal to a higher court.
Plea Bargaining: What is the Charge? What is the Punishment?
The first element of the plea bargain is the charge to which the D.A. is asking you to plead guilty, and this will vary widely on a case-by-case basis.
Generally, you’ll want to know whether it’s a permanent or nonpermanent/deferred conviction. With a deferred judgment, you can plead guilty and go on probation, but once you successfully complete probation, your guilty plea will be withdrawn, and the case will be dismissed. In other words, you do not have a permanent conviction.
The details of the charge can have big implications on your life.
The D.A. will present the charge to which he or she wants you to plead guilty, and then they will also present the punishment they recommend. [The final decision on sentencing is always up to the Judge; however, the D.A.’s recommendation will carry some weight with the Judge.]. It could be jail, probation, community service, anger management classes, or something else. In some cases, the D.A. will say something like, “If you plead guilty to this crime, I won’t ask the judge to send you to jail.”
You can see how this is all a big negotiation.
Plea Bargaining is Ongoing
The plea bargaining stage is going to continue to occur throughout the entirety of your case until it is settled or until you go to trial. I’ve even had cases settle after my client was convicted when I was able to show the D.A. that I thought there were appealable issues in the case.
I worked on one same-sex domestic violence case where the wife told the police that my client, her partner, had pushed her. By the time the case went to trial, the alleged victim had retracted her statement and said it never happened — but the D.A. was still pursuing charges, which we fought.
Finally the D.A. called me and said, “I don’t understand why you’re not taking the offer, it’s a good offer.” I responded by saying that:
- My client won’t authorize me to take the offer because she will lose her job as a bus driver if she pleads guilty to domestic violence,
- She does not believe she’s guilty, and her wife agrees, and
- I don’t think you have any evidence because no one will testify against my client.
The D.A. initially disagreed, but days later dismissed the case.
Frequently, cases will settle at the last minute because neither party truly wants to go to Court.
If you are getting ready to face a criminal charge, call us today at 303-449-1873 to schedule a complimentary consultation and find out if Barre Sakol is the right representative for your case.