What Types Of Pleas Are Available In Criminal Cases In Los Angeles County?
People might think that pleas are real simple when it comes to criminal cases in LA, but they’re not. You can obviously make a guilty plea, in which case the court is going to find you guilty and is going to sentence you depending on what the plea bargain was. That will probably determine your sentence, or sometimes people plead open to the court. So, that would be a guilty plea, but you’re basically saying, hey judge, I’m going to let you decide what the sentence is. The only time we usually do that in criminal cases in LA is if the prosecutor is being unreasonable and won’t give a fair sentence, but you really can’t take the case to jury trial so you do an open plea to the court. Typically, the court will then give you an indicated sentence as to what they would give if you did an open plea.
Another type of plea is what’s called a no contest plea. It’s still a guilty plea and the court is going to find you guilty, but it won’t be able to be used against you in any civil proceedings that might follow. In other words, if somebody had a civil case and the alleged victim in the case you pled guilty, they could say, hey look you pled guilty, so he’s also responsible for the civil case because it’s a higher standard. Obviously, you wouldn’t want that to happen, so you could plead no contest which basically means I’m not going to contest the charges. The judge will find you guilty and you’ll still be convicted just like if you pled guilty, but again, it would be able to be used against you civilly.
Another type of plea is obviously, a not guilty plea. In that case, you would be saying I’m not going to accept responsible for this case. I think I should be found not guilty and then you take the case to jury trial and a jury will decide if you’re innocent or guilty. If a jury comes back and finds you not guilty, then you walk away and you’re done with the case. If on the other hand, you’re found guilty, then basically what happens is the judge will sentence you after that and your not guilty plea will not stand. They will place a guilty plea in its place. You will be found guilty and you will be sentenced accordingly.
So, as far as determining what plea is best for you, obviously you’re going to want to sit down with your criminal defense attorney. Find out the tendencies of the judges and the prosecutor in your case. Take a good long hard look at your criminal case and see whether or not you actually have a defense that could work. You and your attorney will make the decision and then you can press ahead and fight your case, and again try to show that you’re not guilty in the case.
It’s important right from the beginning, in my opinion – having done this for twenty-five years – to try to get some sort of an idea of what you might plead in your case because your investigative process, how your attorney handles the prosecutors, how your attorney deals with the judge, what court the case is going to – what you’re going to plead in the case ultimately kind of dictates that, so I like to know from the beginning what my client’s decision is and what they think they might plead in the case and obviously, I can help direct the case. But if I don’t know from the beginning what their position is, that makes it a little bit difficult. You want to have the advantage of knowing what your plea is going to be in the beginning and sometimes, I say you know what – I see this case can go either way. Before we decide what we’re going to plea, let me do a little investigation. Let me talk to the prosecutor. Let me see how strong we can get this case before you make a decision on what your plea is going to be. That does happen sometimes, and obviously, that’s something that is discussed between me and the client before they make the decision as to whether they’re going to plead guilty, not guilty, no contest, do an open plea to the court – all of these things are going to have to be taken into consideration.
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