How a Criminal Attorney Can Help You Negotiate the Right Plea Agreement for Your Situation
If you’re going to enter into a plea agreement, you may be unsure whether you need a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney on your side. But, not all plea agreements are created equal. And, if you’re unfamiliar with the Florida criminal justice system, you may not be aware of all of the important elements.
Guilty Pleas in Florida and Around the Country
It may seem surprising but the vast majority of criminal cases in the United States resolve through plea agreement rather than through trial. One study from Pew Research revealed that just 2% of federal criminal defendants go to trial. An earlier study from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) found that 70% of those charged with state misdemeanors in Florida entered a guilty plea at the arraignment hearing. That’s particularly alarming considering that NACDL also reported that 66% of defendants appeared at arraignment without counsel.
What shouldn’t be shocking is how much of an impact a plea in a criminal case can have on a defendant’s life. Everyone knows that a plea of guilty or no contest to a crime could result in some period of incarceration. But not everyone knows that pleas to criminal offeses could have other significant impacts. Some pleas may result in the suspension of a driver’s license. Others might prevent you from owning or possessing a firearm. Others may impact whether you are even eligible to enter certain fields of employment. Suffice it to say reaching a plea deal or plea agreement is a huge deal. Given this level of significance anyone charged with a crime needs to be fully informed about the benefits and consequences of a plea deal prior to entering it. That’s where an experienced local criminal defense lawyer can help. A criminal defense attorney can assist you in not only explaining to you all the provisions of a plea deal, but they can also assist you in trying to negotiate the very best possible resolution. So if you or a loved one have been charged with a crime make sure you speak with an expert before a plea is entered.
Negotiating a Jacksonville Plea Agreement
Some key ways a criminal defense attorney can help negotiate the right plea agreement for you include:
1. A criminal lawyer will know the full ramifications of a guilty plea to a particular charge.
Understandably, many people hearing a plea offer from the prosecution are very focused on elements like jail time, fines, and conditions of probation. But, those aren’t necessarily the only things you should be worried about. For example, certain types of convictions may trigger a driver’s license suspension beyond what’s imposed by the court, or may limit your ability to work in certain professions or even to live in certain places. A criminal defense lawyer who understands the full consequences of a particular conviction may be able to negotiate for a plea to a lesser charge, eliminating or reducing some of the indirect consequences of the conviction.
Your attorney can also advise you as to the strength or weakness of your case if you were to go to trial, so you can weigh the consequences of accepting a plea agreement against the risks of proceeding and fighting the charges against you.
2. An experienced defense lawyer can assess your case for weaknesses.
Even if you know exactly what you want to argue for, you may not know how to persuade the prosecution to agree to reduce a charge, skip the jail time, or make other concessions. One of the best ways to put pressure on the prosecuting attorney is to identify weaknesses in the case that mean the prosecution may face an uphill battle in the courtroom. Often, these weaknesses are based on a technical reading of the law, or on law enforcement’s failure to follow specific procedures or properly secure evidence.
Most people who are unfamiliar with the criminal justice system won’t recognize these potential weaknesses, and won’t know how to document and raise them. But, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be on alert for this type of crack in the case, either to provide negotiating power or to open the door to getting the case dismissed or fighting it at trial.
3. A local criminal defense attorney will know what types of arguments are generally successful with the local prosecutor and court.
Prosecutors and judges are humans, and both have a degree of discretion. That means each may be influenced to a greater or lesser degree by different variables. Perhaps one prosecutor feels strongly about keeping people employed and productive, and so might be open to adapting a plea agreement in a way that wouldn’t cause the defendant to lose their job. Some may favor giving young defendants facing charges for the first time a break, while others may feel it’s important to send a strong message to get the accused back on the right path quickly. A lawyer who understands which variables matter most to the prosecution is in the best position to build an effective argument for more favorable treatment.
4. A veteran criminal defense attorney can help you form realistic expectations.
When it comes to criminal charges, most people are looking for the most lenient possible treatment. Ideally, the charges would be dismissed. If that’s not possible, then a less serious conviction with no jail time would be preferred. But, of course, those outcomes aren’t always realistic. The type of plea agreement available will depend on a wide variety of factors.
Lack of experience can lead unrepresented defendants into trouble in two ways. First, when a criminal defendant is unrepresented in Florida, their ability to negotiate with the prosecution is severely limited. This is primarily due to the prosecutor seeking to respect a criminal defendant’s right to remain silent. But regardless, the result is that most unrepresented criminal defendant’s are unable to effectively reach a great plea deal.
At the other end of the spectrum, criminal defendants sometimes miss out on the opportunity to plea bargain because they are holding out for an unrealistic outcome.
Of course, no criminal defense attorney can guarantee a particular outcome in your case. But, an attorney who is experienced in the Jacksonville criminal courts can offer a realistic view of what may be possible in terms of a plea agreement, the likelihood of a conviction if you go to trial, and what type of sentences the court has imposed in similar cases after conviction at trial.
Talk to a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away
If you’re considering a plea agreement, there are a number of variables to consider, including:
- Whether accepting a plea deal is the best option, or there may be weaknesses that make going to trial a good option for you
- What the most important aspects of the plea deal are for you, taking into account both direct and indirect consequences
- Whether the plea offer you have received is the best offer available to you, which means considering any weaknesses in the case, any mitigating factors on your side, and other variables
It’s easy for an unrepresented criminal defendant to make serious mistakes, either in accepting a plea agreement too quickly without an effective negotiation process or in turning down a plea bargain that might have prevented a lengthy prison sentence or other serious consequences. An experienced local criminal lawyer like Matthrew Lufrano can be the best source of information about your rights, your options, any possible weaknesses in your case, and the other factors that impact the terms of a plea agreement.
To learn more, call 904-513-3905 or fill out the contact form on this site right away.