Everyone knows the term “plea bargain” and most people understand the basics of the concept, but few people aside from San Diego criminal lawyers understand the process of making plea bargains and the California laws they must follow. Here’s a little primer on what goes into making a plea bargain in San Diego county.
Plea Bargains Are Common
First, it’s important to know that plea bargains are one of the best tools in a San Diego defense attorney’s belt. In fact, they are so widely used that 90% of cases nationwide and 80% of felony cases in California end in plea bargains. The number of cases going to trial in San Diego is even lower at 1.5% compared to a state average of 2.6%. There are many reasons for these high numbers including the fact that through negotiation, prosecutors and defense attorneys often are able to reach an agreement that is beneficial for both the defendant and the state, and that by shortening the legal process, the defendant can save money on his or her defense and, in many misdemeanor cases, get back to his or her life and job much more quickly.
Types of Plea Bargains
It’s also worth knowing that there are different types of plea bargains, each with its own benefits:
- In Charge Bargaining, a suspect will plead guilty to a less serious charge than they were originally going to be tried for. Wet reckless charges in place of DUIs are some of the most common examples of change bargaining used by San Diego DUI attorneys.
- Count Bargaining occurs when a suspect pleads guilty to one or more of the original charges in exchange for the state dropping the rest. For example, if a suspect was been charged with five counts of fraud and plead guilty to only two, that would be count bargaining.
- Sentence Bargaining is exactly what it sounds like -when a suspect pleads guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. This could mean knocking a life sentence down to ten years in prison or ensuring someone facing a misdemeanor serves no jail time.
- Fact Bargaining is a little more complicated than other types of bargains as it involves knowing the details of the law, but it essentially means pleading guilty in order for the state to omit certain details in its case. For example, if someone was drunk driving with a child in the car, they could leave out the fact that the juvenile was in the car so the defendant would not be subject to the enhanced sentencing related to that fact.
When Can Plea Bargains be Made?
One of the most interesting facts about plea bargains in California is that the state legislature tried to ban them for serious felonies and DUIs in 1982. Under the law, plea bargains can only be made in three specific cases; when there is not enough evidence to prove the state’s case, when testimony of a material witness cannot be obtained, or when a reduction or dismissal will not make a substantial change in the sentence. You might be curious how so many felonies are plea bargained in California if it is so difficult to meet the requirements for a plea deal, but the law actually left open some major loopholes by only applying to the information and indictment stages of the criminal process. Since most plea bargains occur after an arraignment, before a preliminary hearing or during a grand jury indictment, the law rarely affects a prosecutor and San Diego defense lawyer’s ability to negotiate a plea.
If you have been charged with a crime, you may be curious if a plea bargain would be the right course of action given your circumstances. A San Diego criminal lawyer like Peter M. Liss can be instrumental in helping you evaluate what will be the best move for your situation. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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