When you have been arrested for a criminal charge, the Prosecutor will present you with an offer on the day of your arraignment. This is referred to as a plea bargain. The offer will ask you to plead guilty to a crime, and in exchange, they will give you a lesser penalty. Many people accept this officer without consulting an attorney, and more often than not, take an offer they shouldn’t have.
For example, let’s say a person has been charged and arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct. The prosecutor offers a misdemeanor drunk and disorderly conduct, with no additional fines than the bail paid, and no jail time other than time served.
The average person will see that there is no jail time and no additional fine and will immediately assume it is a good offer. In order to finish the case as soon as possible they will plead guilty and accept the offer. However, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor has many more consequences than people realize. A misdemeanor will remain on your record until it is expunged and will have to be reported to educational and financial intuitions as well as on job applications.
Furthermore, how does the average person know if the offer is a good one? In the above example, the person sees the no jail time, and no fine and quickly accepts. But do they know what the maximum sentence that could be imposed in their specific situation would be? While a drunk and disorderly charge could carry with it a jail sentence, it is rarely imposed in first time offenses. It is a common charge, and not one that prosecutors are eager to impose jail sentences, or even take to trial.
In many situations, the offer is rejected and the case is set for trial. It takes a lot longer, but prosecutors will offer a better, more reasonable offer, which the person charged should wait for. In a drunk and disorderly conduct case, the person could bargain for it to be reduced to a disturbing the peace charge. A disturbing the peace charge can be an infraction, which does not have to be reported, and carries with it no potential jail time or probation.
Consulting an experienced San Diego Criminal Defense lawyer will not only inform you of when a plea bargain is not a good offer, but will also help push the government to give you a better deal. It is always in your interest to push a case to trail and refuse to take an offer when the elements of your case do not rise to the level of being found guilty. The average person cannot make this determination; it must come with the knowledge and years of experience that only a criminal defense attorney who has been practicing for years has.