When we are confident in our clients defense, we insist on a complete dismissal of the charges or we will take the matter to a jury trial and obtain a not guilty verdict. However, in some cases, the client admittedly has some culpability or there is some evidence to support the charge. In this case, if the district attorney is offering a plea deal, it may be in the client’s best interest to consider a plea bargain. The subject of this blog post is how to get the best deal possible.
Plea Deal for a Sexual Charge
Recently we represented a client charged with a serious sex crime. Upon our entrance into the case, the D. A. was demanding a 15 year plea agreement. The client’s sentence exposure, if convicted at trial in front of a judge, would have been up to 30 years in jail.
We immediately began our investigation. While the evidence was sufficient for probable cause, it was unclear if the state would have been able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition, our investigator uncovered new details, including a possible second statement by the alleged victim that contradicted the first statement. We provided this information to the D. A.
The D.A. later reduced their offer to 8 years. We then obtained additional evidence about prior similar allegations made by the alleged victim against other individuals. We continued to work the case and refused all plea offers from the district attorney’s office.
Plea Offer Goes from 15 Years to Probation
Finally, the day before the trial, the district attorney’s office offered 5 years suspended sentence in addition to 5 years active supervised probation. This was a good deal since there was no jail time and my client would remain a free person. The client must weigh the possible outcome – if we went to trial, there was a good chance we would get a not guilty verdict — but you must consider the vagaries associated with a jury trial. No one can predict a jury decision with 100% accuracy. Because of that fact, my client was looking at a possible 30 year sentence.
Evaluating the Plea Offer
We discussed this matter for hours. If he accepted the deal, after 5 years of probation, this would all be over. If we went to trial and won, he would not have any probation. However, if he was convicted, it was a probability that the judge would give him the full 30 years. My client talked with his family and made his own decision to accept the plea offer of probation. While we did not get a not guilty verdict, we did keep our client out of jail.
The primary goal of any experienced criminal defense attorney is to win – that is, to get a not guilty verdict. However, if it’s in the client’s best interest to accept a plea bargain, this is something the client and attorney must seriously consider. This is especially true when probation is offered and the sentence exposure is large.
Our office believes that this particular case shows the critical importance of intense preparation along with aggressive investigation of the facts supporting the claim – not only to prepare for trial but to obtain a good plea offer from the district attorney.