When you have been charged with a criminal offense, you will be given the opportunity to appear in court before a criminal Judge and have your case heard. This hearing will be referred to as an Arraignment. At the Arraignment, several things will happen:
- Your rights will be read to you
- The potential sentence will be read to you
- You will have the option to enter a plea
- And you will be given a plea bargain
Each of these things are important and if you do not have a Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney representing you, it is highly suggested that you think long and hard about each of these steps. For example, entering a plea can affect the rest of your case, your future, and any potential sentence. If you are not an experienced attorney, how do you know whether you have entered the right plea, or if you are being coaxed to? How will you know if your rights are being violated?
In an effort to move cases along the justice system quickly, prosecutors will offer you what is a called a plea bargain. A plea bargain is an offer for a specific sentence if you agree to plead guilty that day. How do you know if the sentence they are offering is actually a good sentence, or if it is merely standard? How do you know that they are not just convincing you to plead something worse, when your case is strong enough to be litigated and you have a strong chance of it being dismissed? Unless you are a criminal law professional, you do not.
Let’s consider an example. Dina goes to court on a drunk and disorderly conduct charge. She was drinking a virgin margarita outside of a restaurant during a very busy fourth of July block party. Officers stopped Dina and told her that drinking in public was not allowed and that she was being loud due to her intoxication. In reality, Dina does not drink alcohol. The party itself was very loud and there were concerts going on everywhere. Dina was dancing along, but not due to her intoxication. Officers did not even question her drink, simply threw it out and stated she was being charged .
Dina appears in court on her own and is given a offer by prosecutors. She is offered no jail time and a minimal fine if she pleads guilty to a misdemeanor offense under the Penal Code. Dina is scared and wants the case to be over. She agrees to plead guilty and does so.
If Dina had spoke to a Criminal Specialist, she would have learned that the officers had no case against her. They had thrown out the only piece of evidence they had, and evidence that would have proven her innocence. Regardless, without any evidence, prosecutors are unable to make a case. Furthermore, drunk and disorderly conducts rarely allow for jail time. It is likely that Dina would not have gotten jail time if she had fought the case. This is why it is extremely important to speak to an attorney before making any decisions on your own Criminal case.