A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor. The agreement entails the defendant agreeing to plead guilty or no contest (nolo contendere) in exchange for the prosecutor dropping one or more of the charges. It can also entail the prosecutor agreeing to reduce a charge to a less serious offense, or even recommend to the judge a specific sentence which would be acceptable to the defense.
Due to the fact that the courts have become extremely crowded and busy, the prosecutors and judges feel ever-increasing pressure to move cases along as quickly as possible. As we all know, criminal trials can take days, weeks and sometimes even months. Working out a plea bargain for a guilty plea can often be settled in mere minutes. In addition, the outcome of a criminal trial is very unpredictable, while a plea bargain provides the prosecution and the defense with control over the result, one they can both live with. Despite its many critics, plea bargaining is becoming very common. Today, more than 90% of convictions are derived from negotiated plea bargains. Essentially, that means that less than 10% of criminal cases actually end up going to trial. Some critics still view plea bargains as “sneaky arrangements” which are adverse to the peoples will. Therefore, the federal government and the State of California have written rules that clearly set out how plea bargains can be arranged and accepted by the court.
Do you have questions about a case? Visalia and Bakersfield area criminal defense attorneys at Martens & Brusseau can assist you with criminal charges. With years of criminal defense experience, our firm has handled thousands of cases. Attorneys here have the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia, Fresno, and Bakersfield areas, Martens & Brusseau can provide expert criminal defense counsel. CONTACT US AT 559-302-9722 OR 661-466-2142 TODAY
California's Proposition 8
In 1982, California voters passed Proposition 8, which essentially banned plea bargaining when the information or the indictment charged a serious felony, certain violent sex crimes, any felony within which the defendant used a gun, or an offense of driving while under the influence. California Penal Code 1192.7This law only provide three (3) exceptions. Plea bargains could be done when:
•There was insufficient evidence to prove the case
•The testimony of a material witness could not be obtained
•A reduction or dismissal would not result in a substantial change in sentence
However, even considering the above, cases continued to be negotiated and pled, even when the exclusions didn't apply. How so, you ask? Well, the law only applies to charges contained in the information or indictment. This meant that it did not prohibit bargaining prior to that, like after arraignment, before the preliminary hearing, or during a grand jury investigation. The prosecutors and the defense attorneys were doing their negotiating during these times. So, sometimes, the bargain can suffer as the result of both sides not having enough information to make an informed offer and acceptance. Also, sometimes, evidence could come to light after the case goes to trial, motivating either side to negotiate a plea – but it's too late. Plea bargaining can be divided into two types:
Charge bargaining is a method wherein prosecutors agree to drop some charges or reduce a charge to a less serious offense in exchange for a plea by the defendant.
Sentence bargaining is a method wherein the prosecutor agrees to recommend a lighter sentence if the defendant pleads guilty or no contest. When are Plea Bargains Negotiated and Made?
In most jurisdictions, plea bargaining can take place at any stage in the process, excluding, of course, the above exceptions. These “deals” can be struck pretty much right after the defendant has been arrested, and before the prosecutor files criminal charges. Negotiations may conclude as a jury returns to the courtroom to announce their verdict. If the trial results in a hung jury (the jurors are split and cannot make a unanimous decision), the prosecution and defense can negotiate a plea rather than go through another extensive trial. Note: Plea deals are even sometimes reached after the defendant is convicted while the case is on appeal.
CONTACT US AT 559-302-9722 OR 661-466-2142 TODAY
Pleading No Contest (Nolo Contendere) in Exchange for a Guilty Plea
In essence, if you are pleading no contest you are stating to the court, “I do not choose to contest the charges against me.” This form of plea is very common and is often part of a plea bargain. It will result in a criminal conviction, the same as a guilty plea. A no contest plea will also show up on your criminal record. If the victim of the crime later decides to sue the defendant in civil court, the no contest plea usually cannot be offered into evidence against the defendant as an admission of guilt. On the other hand, a guilty plea would serve as an admission of guilt and can be used as evidence in a civil case. Consequences of a Criminal Record
After working out a plea bargain, whether it be for a no contest plea or a guilty plea, and upon the plea being entered into the court proceedings, the defendant's guilt is established the same as it would be after a court trial. The conviction will now show up on the defendant's “rap sheet” (criminal record). The defendant will now lose any privileges or rights which he/she would otherwise be entitled to, such as the right to vote.
However, depending upon the nature of the defendant's conviction and the defendant's other interactions with the law, the defendant may be able to seal or expunge their criminal record. (See above - expungement.) It is extremely important that you hire a criminal defense attorney who has a proven record with trial and negotiation skills. An effective and experienced criminal attorney is able to appropriately evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecutor's case and the penalties that the defendant would be subjected to if the case goes to trial and is lost.