This is an interesting question and there’s no perfect answer. I mean, I doubt the Superior Courts in Los Angeles County — and there’s over twenty-five of them — keep statistics on which cases that are filed actually are resolved by way of a negotiated plea agreement versus going to trial versus getting dismissed. They may keep that statistic, but it would be very difficult to keep. I don’t know who would keep it and there are thousands of cases being dealt with in these criminal cases.
I was sitting in court today — in the Airport Court — and one Judge who said he’s been sitting on the bench now for almost fifty years. His statistics were about 85% of cases that are filed in Los Angeles County are resolved by way of some sort of a settlement or a plea bargain in the case and the remaining 15% of criminal cases that are filed are either dismissed or they go to trial.
So, you can see, it’s a very small percentage of cases in Los Angeles County that go to trial, and the reason for that is, I mean typically, the prosecutors are not going to file a case that the police bring to them if they don’t think they can win it. I mean, they’re really supposed to be in the business of doing justice, not just prosecuting people. So, if somebody brings them a case and it stinks and they don’t really have the evidence for it, they’re probably not going to file it.
I mean, there are other statistics you can look at. How many people who are arrested that are actually filed on by the prosecutors. I think a lot of people would think it’s almost 100% but that’s not true. A lot of times the prosecutors don’t file cases. A lot of times I’m able to contact them and talk to them and get them not to file the case. A lot of times they just look at the case on their own and realize it’s just a bad case and they don’t want to lose the case. It’s embarrassing for them to lose cases. It is a waste of money. The judges get on them when they file stupid cases that they have to dismiss.
So, it’s a very high percentage of cases that are resolved by way of a negotiated plea. I think another reason for that is, if the case is not a good case and the case should be tried because the person is innocent, then the prosecutors should dismiss that case. Or, they shouldn’t file it in the first place. Sometimes they might file it and the defense will bring them some evidence they didn’t see before or they didn’t contemplate because the police didn’t get it, and they say, alright now that we see this, we’re not going to file the case. Other times, they themselves will just look at the case and say, yeah, we’re not going to be able to prove this case. Sometimes witnesses come up with different statements after the time of filing. There are all sorts of different things that can happen when it comes to criminal defense in Los Angeles.
But that gives you a pretty good feeling that most of the time, the prosecutors — if they file a case — it’s probably a case that’s going to be negotiated unless the defendant says, I didn’t do it. I’m innocent, and that happens about 15% of the time or less. If a defendant says that, then the criminal defense attorney needs to prepare the case, do the investigation and that’s what we do.
I try a lot of cases and I win a lot of cases. The reason I win a lot of cases — in addition to the fact that I’ve been doing this a long time and I think I’m pretty good at what I do — is because I’m not taking a case to trial that we’re going to lose. I’m taking a case to trial that we’ve got a very good chance of winning. I mean, sometimes a case can go either way. You’re talking about jurors. You’re talking about human beings and people, so you can’t always know exactly what a jury is going to do. But, most of the time if we’re taking that case to trial, it’s a case that we have a good chance to win and we’re going to fight and do everything we possibly can to get that not guilty verdict.
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