A lot of people might ask, why do I need to know about plea bargaining? I don’t really have anything to do with the plea bargaining in my criminal case. That’s going to be up to my criminal defense attorney.
And you’re right about that part. Your criminal defense attorney is going to be the one that is going to be talking to the prosecutor and the judge about your case and deciding exactly how the case is going to be dealt with and whether or not you’re even going to engage in any plea bargaining in the first place.
Review Criminal Case Options With Attorney
But if you want to help your criminal defense attorney in your case and most people obviously do want to do that, then you should start to learn a little bit about how plea bargaining works and what you can do to possibly impact the plea bargaining in your case.
First and foremost, you need to sit down with your attorney — and I do this all the time with my clients — and of course, I’m writing this for you so you can really get a sense of how the criminal system works — what you can do to help your attorney operate within it on your behalf. Maybe you can come up with some good information that the attorney can use to help you.
That’s the whole point of you interacting with your attorney as it relates to your criminal case and that is for your attorney to try and work with you as a team to get the desired result.
So, step number one is to figure out, do you want to engage in plea bargaining in the first place? I need to know that as your advocate. I need to know whether we’re fighting this thing all the way and we’re taking it to trial.
Because if I know that I don’t have to negotiate with the prosecutors at all and that gives me a secret advantage because most prosecutors think that the case that they filed is so great against the person there’s no way they’re going to try to challenge it.
So, they’re geared towards negotiating, plea bargaining and trying to work the criminal case out. If I go in knowing that I’m going to be able to attack them — catch them off-guard; catch them unprepared for the criminal case. I love that.
That’s my favorite stuff. I go in there and I don’t even tell them what my plans are until the last minute — until I have to — so I can catch them by surprise.
Negotiating With Prosecutor on Plea Bargain
But if on the other hand — like most criminal cases that are filed because the prosecutors typically aren’t going to file a case if there’s not evidence against a person. Most of the time we’re going to have to plea bargain and that’s why this section is important.
What type of information do I need when it comes to plea bargaining? I need to know about you. I need to know the good things about you. Can we get character letters from people who know you? Family members, friends, people from your religious organization, people from your school — there’s all sorts of areas that I can get these character letters from and they’re talking about what type of person you are.
Obviously, we want them to be saying good things about you — that you’re a good person; that you impacted their life or the lives of those around you in a positive way. That’s something we want the prosecutor to know when we plea bargain.
We don’t want them to think that you’re a smooth criminal who’s just out there causing trouble in the community that they need to protect society against. No, that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for the opposite impression and that’s why we get the character letters.
Another thing is, if you’ve got a good job — maybe you own your own business, maybe you work for a big company or whether you work for a small company. It doesn’t matter. They want to see that you have a good job — that you have something else to pursue in life other than committing offenses.
So, getting a letter from your job and the letter doesn’t have to be geared toward the job knowing you have a criminal case pending against you and you have to break the bad news to your boss — no.
It’s just a letter showing you’ve got a good job, what’s you do and that you’ve got a future there. That’s important. So, those two things are a foundation, in my opinion, when it comes to plea bargaining. I didn’t know about that.
I need to have that information. If we get letters from people showing that you’re a good person who’s an upstanding member of society, that’s going to help us in plea bargaining your criminal case. And then of course, you’ve got to look at the case. That’s another important facet.
Type of Criminal Charges You Are Facing
What is your case all about? Why are you being charged? Is there a version of events that the police don’t have that you can give me about the case? Are there witnesses that we don’t know about? Is there investigation that can be done that can show another angle to the case.
Sometimes we can do the investigation, we can get the witnesses and we can show the prosecutor that you’re innocent and then we can get them to dismiss the case.
But most of the time and more realistically when it comes to criminal defense, we’re showing the other side of the equation. We’re trying to mitigate things. We’re trying to do damage control. We’re trying to show them that everything is not what meets the eye here.
The police didn’t do a full thorough investigation. We’re showing them there’s other witnesses; there’s other information. This is not as bad as you think. There’s a reason that this happened and the police haven’t given it to you. The prosecutors, judge, we’re giving it to you.
Here it is. So, we’re trying to show the other side of the equation when we do this plea bargaining. I need to go into the negotiation with these prosecutors or with the judge depending on what the strategy is going to be with all of this basic information at my fingertips.
Then it’s going to be up to me as your advocate to figure out in your advocate to figure out in your particular case what is the best plea bargaining strategy.
Knowing Prosecutors in Local Los Angeles Court
In other words, who am I going to talk to? Does the prosecutor in the court where your case is pending even have the authority to plea bargain a case? Most of the times the answer is absolutely no. I’m going to have to go to their supervisor.
I’m going to have to go to the number two DA in that particular courthouse. I’m going to have to go to the head DA maybe. Sometimes I get cases where the person has a strike on their record or it’s a murder case or an attempted murder case or some other serious case and I have to go to the head DA.
The head DA in that particular courthouse is the only one who had the authority to do anything related to those charges. You’ve got to know that as a criminal defense attorney going into the negotiation who you’re going to be dealing with, because who you’re dealing with will dictate what your strategy is going to be.
Sometimes we’re dealing with a very difficult prosecutor who’s not going to give us what we want — who’s not going to give us what we perceived as a fair plea bargain resolution, so maybe we have to got to the judge in that case. So now we have to know what judge we’re dealing with.
We’ve got to find a judge that is going to have the wherewithal to be able to say to the DA if it’s the right thing to do, you know what prosecutor, you’re not being reasonable in this case. Hedding is making a good point here and you’re ignoring and you know what, I’m going to step in.
I’m a judge. I get to decide what the sentence is going to be. I don’t think his client should have to go to prison. I think I’m going to give him a chance. I’m going to put him on probation.
Making Decision to Pursue a Plea Bargain
So, we have to decide, is it the type of case we’re going to take to a judge or are we going to run it all the way through the prosecutor system and try to get the resolution in that regard.
So now you start to really get a grip and a feel for what plea bargaining is all about, the things that I will need as your advocate going into the plea bargaining about who I’m looking to talk to and the type of things I’m going to be keying on.
We’re going to be looking at whether you’re a danger to society if the judge gives you a break. Do you really need to be punished and taken out of the community, and if you do need to be taken out of the community because of what you did, should you go into jail?
Should you go into prison? Should you go into rehab or should you go into some other setting that addresses the root problem for why you got arrested in the first place.
So, these are the type of things we’re thinking about and listen, it’s not the same approach in every case. That doesn’t make sense. It’s not the same circumstances in every case. You have different defendants at different levels.
Some defendants have records — criminal records — some don’t, so you’ve got to look at who you’re dealing with. You’ve got to look at the scenario that you’re dealing with. This is where you’re hiring somebody who has been doing this a long time.
I’ve got a background having worked for the DA’s office, having worked for a judge and having been a criminal defense attorney for over 26 years at this point, I have a good feel for what it’s going to take to get you what you need; what’s realist to even shoot for in the first place and the step by step process to get you the result you must have.