WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO WIN YOUR CASE?
This is a question that has to be on most people's minds when they begin the difficult task of figuring out what to do after they have been arrested. Some may say that you should not be thinking about winning your case but surviving it! However, if you define “win” in a realistic way as it relates to what you did or did not do to get arrested, then I think you have a chance to get a win.
The vast majority of California criminal cases filed in Los Angeles are resolved by way of a negotiated resolution between the criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor. That is not to say that cases are not being fought and won in front of a jury.
It is saying that it is not suitable for salespeople or attorneys to tell potential clients when they call to inquire about their services to get their case dismissed or be advertising that! This is irresponsible and does not make sense based on the statistics. So the key is to define what a win truly means based on your circumstances. Should your case be fought all the way because you are innocent or negotiated to a fair resolution?
To help define what a win is to you, first sit down with a seasoned criminal lawyer and tell them your story most fairly and honestly you can. This way, they will feel what they can do to help you. You almost have to tell the story from the prosecutor's standpoint for the defense attorney to get a read on what they will be up against.
Once they have what the other side will say, they will begin to ask what your position is and delve into possible solutions that will resolve the matter. However, if you put a twist or spin on what happened, you are only hurting yourself in the long run. Eventually, your champion will be faced with the most challenging parts of your case, and if they were not told the truth from the beginning, then there is no way they will be in a position to help you.
ANATOMY OF A CRIMINAL CASE
Whenever you're talking about the pieces of a criminal case and how they work, the first thing you have to look at is the investigative phase. In other words, the stage where the police or law enforcement are investigating and deciding whether to file a case. Sometimes the investigative phase goes very quickly. The police either view a crime or are called out to a scene, such as a domestic violence incident, determine that a crime has occurred, immediately arrest the person, and send it to the prosecutors to charge a person.
But other times, the investigative phase takes some time. Often, I will get called during the investigative stage. The client will ask me to represent them, pre-filing, and act as a buffer between them and the police to make sure they don't do anything during the investigative phase to put themselves in a worse position.
A perfect example would be stating the police that incriminates them. That's usually the best evidence the police and prosecutors can obtain — somebody making a statement that later is used to implicate them in a criminal case.
During the investigative phase, the police will execute search warrants, stop people, stop cars. They'll also do surveillance where they watch and videotape people, view them with their own eyes and record what they see. They'll talk to witnesses and use other investigative techniques – searching documents, issuing subpoenas – all sorts of different things they can do. Eventually, they'll decide on whether to file the case or not.
Misdemeanor crimes are the less serious crimes such as disturbing the peace, trespassing, petty theft, shoplifting, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct. Under California law, a misdemeanor usually carries a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. There are some crimes that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, called a "wobbler," including criminal threats, child endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon, embezzlement, and receiving stolen property.
Felony crimes are the most serious and described as an offense where you can be sentenced to more than one year in jail. Put simply, a felony conviction will typically result in serving time in a California state prison. Common felonies include first-degree residential burglary, robbery, drug possession with intent to sell, corporal injury to a spouse, manslaughter, attempted murder, and lewd acts with a minor.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have a record of success in all types of charges, including theft crimes such as grand theft, identity theft, credit card fraud, insurance fraud, health care fraud, and operating a chop shop. We also handle all state and federal drug offenses, such as drug trafficking, prescription drug fraud, and transportation of controlled substances.
Our law firm also handles any type of California domestic violence-related charges, such as domestic battery, child abuse, elder abuse, stalking, and restraining order violations. Further, we aggressively defend clients against violent crime charges like murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, and weapons charges. Similarly, we represent those charged with a sex crime, such as sexual battery, revenge porn, sexting, rape, statutory rape, and sex offender registration.
We represent people accused of driving under the influence charges while impaired by alcohol or drugs or operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. We have a track record of success defending people charged with all types of DUI cases, such as hit and run, DUI causing injury, vehicular manslaughter, underage DUI, and an unlawful police stop. We also will represent you at your California DMV hearing.
Our firm handles federal offenses, such as wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, federal drug offenses, and white-collar offenses. We also deal with juvenile crimes, bench warrants, three-strike cases, expungements, and probation violations.
PLEA BARGAINING WITH PROSECUTOR
One of the most common ways to resolve a criminal case that is filed in Los Angeles County is for the defense to enter into a plea bargain negotiation with the prosecutors or the judge, or both, discuss the case and attempt to find some sort of a resolution.
This plea negotiation process involves the defense providing mitigating circumstances to the prosecutors and judge with character letters, the client's positive version of events, any mitigating details the prosecutors don't already know because the police did a weak or incomplete investigation.
When your defense lawyer is familiar with the structure of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and how operates like a business, this is a huge advantage to the defendant and often results in the best possible outcome on their criminal charges.
If the case is resolved, then that's what's called plea bargaining between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Sometimes the judge will get involved in that process. The person will end up agreeing to plead guilty or no contest as to a specific charge, or it will be some diversionary deal worked out. Then that person will be sentenced by the judge depending on what type of a plea bargain is entered between the defense attorney, the judge, and the prosecutor.
If there isn't a plea bargain in a case, and sometimes there's not for various reasons. A person may be innocent, and they would fight the case in a felony, do the preliminary hearing, and ultimately do the trial, and the jury would find them guilty or not guilty of the charge. If they're found guilty, then a judge would sentence them.
But sometimes we do what we call the litigation phase where we fight a case, we do the preliminary hearing, we attack the prosecutor's witnesses and evidence — not so much because we necessarily think that we're entirely guilty, but because we want to do some damage to the prosecutor's case, because by doing damage sometimes this will present the defendant's version of events and put the defendant in the best position to now work out a better resolution for them.
If you damage the prosecutor's case through cross examination, you show the prosecutor that their case has some issues. Maybe you point out that they've got the wrong charges against the defendant. By getting some of those charges dismissed at a preliminary hearing, you're in a much stronger position to argue that your client shouldn't have to plead guilty to certain charges, and maybe lesser offenses should be charged against your client.
ARGUING FOR BEST RESOLUTION
So, if your case seems better after you do some litigation, some motions, you're now in a position to argue for a better resolution in the case. Other times you're doing the litigation because the client has indicated they're innocent, and you want to fight the case, take it in front of a jury trial.
When it comes to negotiating a favorable plea bargain, one of the primary factors for a criminal defense attorney is to figure out what types of issues will make a difference with the prosecution. There are numerous factors to consider, such as the defendant's prior criminal record, type of current crime, whether a victim was physically injured or emotionally harmed, and many other factors that prosecutors and judges will review.
Further, we have to consider the jurisdiction where your criminal case is handled. For example, are you in one of the harshest jurisdictions for plea bargaining? I would consider Los Angeles County as one of the better jurisdictions.
We also have to look at who we plea bargaining with. Are we negotiating the case with the prosecutor or with the judge? If we are plea bargaining with the prosecutor, which is the normal procedure, what type of a prosecutor is it? What level of authority do they possess?
For example, are they a boss or just a general Deputy District Attorney or Deputy City Attorney? What level of authority do they have when it comes to the type of criminal case we are attempting to resolve favorably? If you are unable to work out a deal with them, then we might need to consider going to their boss.
Part of the anatomy of a criminal case in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley is that if you're charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, you're entitled to have a jury trial where twelve members from the community will be picked. They will decide whether or not you're innocent or guilty of the crime.
The prosecutor will present evidence first because they have the burden of proof and because there's a presumption of innocence, and they have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt against you. Once the prosecution is done, the defense has the option of putting on defense if they want to.
They don't have to. A criminal defendant has an absolute right to testify or not to testify. If a criminal defendant decides not to testify, that cannot be used against them. Then ultimately, the jury will determine whether the person is innocent or guilty of the crime.
If they're found innocent, the case will be dismissed, and you will be able to go on their merry way. If, on the other hand, they're found guilty of any of the charges, then a sentencing date will be set, and the judge will determine what the ultimate sentence will be, and the case will be concluded.
In my experience, the first thing that is most effective for me in winning a criminal case is to have a winning attitude. When I walk into the courtroom to represent my client, I know the case inside and out, know exactly what I want to achieve for my client, and believe deep in my bones that I will get it.