When you are arrested you will be given a piece of paper that will indicate the charge you are being brought under and the date and time you should appear in Court.
When you appear in Court on that date, it is called the Arraignment. This first court appearance is when the Judge explains your rights and asks you to enter a plea. If you would like a continuance to hire an attorney, you will be able to ask the Judge and they will grant you an extension so that you can hire a San Diego Criminal Defense attorney.
At the arraignment, you will also have the chance to speak to a Prosecutor. The Prosecutor will give you an offer, known as the plea bargain. Because Courts are backed up, the goal of the criminal courtroom is to have cases quickly closed. They want people to plead quickly so that they can be sentenced and the case is taken off calendar. Accordingly, the plea bargain is an offer that will ask you to plead to a lesser charge or reduced sentence in exchange that you plead guilty and not contest the charge.
Everyone is given an offer, but not everyone knows whether they should accept the offer and plead guilty, whether they should plead not guilty and ask for trial, or just continue the case.
Since the prosecutor’s goal is to get the case closed and off the Court calendar as soon as possible, they do not necessarily have your best interests in mind. They will give you the offer and explain to you that it is best if you take it, but that is not always the case. Determining whether an offer is a good one, takes expertise and knowledge. Many Criminal attorneys who have been practicing for over 30 years can tell you right away if the plea bargain being offered is a good one or whether it is worth pleading not guilty.
Accepting a plea bargain is a big deal. You are giving up your rights to contest the charge and are accepting a misdemeanor or felony to be on your record. Oftentimes people plead guilty to get the issue over with, but the criminal record will remain and continue to be problematic when it comes to applying for jobs and graduate schools. Therefore, pleading guilty is not always the best option ,especially when not accepting the plea bargain can often lead to a dismissal.
Before you give up your rights to a trial and accept a plea bargain, it is best to consult an experienced Southern California criminal defense lawyer. They will be able to discuss your case with you, assess the facts and determine whether the prosecutor has a strong case. If there is a strong case, and your facts are weak, the attorney may direct you to accept a plea bargain, determining that it is a good offer. However, in most cases the plea bargain is not a good offer, and a better result may be obtained by choosing to fight for your rights.