If you are dealing with a criminal case in Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley, one of the first things you'll have to decide is whether you want to try your case or accept a plea bargain. If you are innocent or feel that you can beat the charges, then you might want to try the case.
If the prosecutors have good evidence against you or doctored evidence, then you might want to have your attorney accept a plea bargain on your behalf.
Your attorney will need to gather evidence of all the mitigating factors, such as character letters and a clean prior criminal record in order to convince the prosecutor to have mercy and provide a resolution that allows you to protect some of your valuable interests (e.g. avoiding a felony conviction, jail sentence, or sex offender registration).
The type of plea bargain you are offered will depend on the type of case you have, the seriousness of the allegations, how the prosecutor views the issues involved, and how good your attorney is.
This is why it's so important that I sit down and review all of the details of a case with my clients.
Together, we will decide on a fair, good resolution to the case, after which point it will become my job to convince the prosecutor to agree to that resolution.
Why Do Prosecutors Even Offer A Plea Deal In The First Place?
Prosecutors don't have the ability to try every single criminal case that's filed. More than 95 percent of cases filed in Los Angeles County end in a plea bargain.
If every single case went to trial, it would overrun the court system. Prosecutors are supposed to offer plea bargains that provide a better outcome than the potential outcome at trial.
Since a lot of people don't want to risk ending up with a worse outcome by going to trial, they will accept the plea bargain.
What Happens After a Plea Bargain Has Been Accepted?
Once the prosecutors offer a plea bargain and the defense accepts it or provides a counter-offer that is in turn accepted by the prosecutor, you will enter a plea before a judge in court.
In felony cases, half the judges will do verbal pleas whereby you waive your rights and either enter a guilty or no-contest plea before being sentenced and put on probation or sent to prison.
The other half of the judges will make you fill out and sign a felony waiver form. In all misdemeanor cases in Los Angeles County, the waiver form will be signed by you and your attorney.
Then the judge will review the waiver form with you and give you your constitutional rights. You will then waive your constitutional rights and be told the consequences of your plea.
This is done in front of a court reporter who transcribes all of the information on behalf of the court so that it is documented.
When you enter into a plea bargain in LA County, you will appear before the judge, and fill out the waiver form or be given the oral burden before being put on probation.
Some felony charges can be reduced to misdemeanors, and some cases can be dismissed.
Can The Judge Or Prosecutor Change The Plea Agreement After It Has Been Agreed To?
Most cases are resolved by way of the prosecutor and the defense attorney enforcing coordination with the criminal defendant, agreeing to a plea bargain, and then taking the case to a judge.
The judge will simply pass judgement on what was already agreed to.
If the prosecutor is being unreasonable, then the defense can ask the judge what they would give the defendant as a punishment if the defendant pled open to them.
In Los Angeles County and the San Fernando Valley, judges sometimes undercut prosecutors and provide a better resolution.
However, it is more common for judges to think that the defendant is getting too lenient of a deal.
Can I Withdraw My Plea Agreement At Any Time?
Once you go in front of a judge and enter a plea in your criminal case, you are not going to be successful in withdrawing your plea.
Oftentimes, judges are not going to permit someone to withdraw their plea, since they will have already been given all of their constitutional rights and waived the rights.
The only circumstances under which judges might allow someone to withdraw their plea is if they had ineffective assistance of counsel.
For example, this might be the case if the defense lawyer did not help them or give them all of their constitutional rights.
Another example would be someone whose lawyer did not speak the same language as them, so they didn't understand what was going on with the case.
There are all sorts of circumstances that could cause someone to try to withdraw their plea, but having done this for 26 years, I can say that it's a very tough thing to do.
Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.