When you have been arrested or cited for an offense, the citation you receive will state a date and time that you have to appear in Court. That date is the arraignment date. At the arraignment date you will receive a plea bargain from the prosecutor. A plea bargain is a complete offer, and if you agree to the plea bargain you will enter a plea of guilty at the arraignment, concluding your case.
Before you accept a plea bargain there are many things you should take into serious consideration.
- Is the offer reasonable?
If you are not a legal expert or have not consulted with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, you do not have the accurate knowledge to determine whether an offer coming from a prosecutor is a good one. Let’s consider an example.
Dan has been arrested for a possible hit and run. He appears at the Arraignment without an attorney. The prosecutor tells Dan that if he agrees to plead guilty, he will not face any jail time, just a fine for restitution and probation. Dan, terrified that he would get jail time immediately agrees and pleads guilty.
What Dan doesn’t know is that if there is minimal damage to property on a hit and run offense, and it is his first offense, it is very likely that the court will not give him jail time. He is not gaining anything by making a split second decision to plead guilty.
- Is there enough evidence to lead to a conviction?
Sometimes people are in a rush to get the case over that they plead guilty even when they would not have been found guilty otherwise. Let’s consider the same example above.
When Dan was arrested for a Hit and Run, he had also left a note for the owner of the house whose fence he had accidentally hit. Several neighbors and witnesses saw him do it. Dan, eager to get the case resolved, wants to plead guilty. What he doesn’t know is that if he has left contact information, it is not a Hit and Run and he cannot be found guilty. If Dan were to push the case to trial, it is likely that Prosecution would not have enough evidence to find him guilty leading to a possible reduction or dismissal.
- What are the potential consequences of a guilty plea?
Pleading guilty may resolve the case, but the lasting impacts on the case could be worse. The conviction will go on your permanent record and you will have to explain it on different applications. You could also face higher penalties and sentences if you have previously been convicted for a crime.
If you have been charged with a potential criminal offense, do not accept a plea bargain without a full understanding of your options and possible outcomes. Knowing your defenses and the arguments available to you, as well as consulting with a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer could provide you with the insight you need to make a smart, informed decision.