Plea Bargaining a Felony Down to a Misdemeanor
- 1Get a lawyer. You are entitled to have a lawyer represent you in most criminal proceedings, even if you can’t afford to hire one yourself. Criminal defense attorneys and public defenders will have experience in plea negotiations and will most likely have an existing work relationship with the judge and prosecutor.2Plead not guilty. Your first court appearance is usually the arraignment, at which you will be asked to enter a plea. By entering a “not guilty” plea, you require the prosecution to prove your guilt in court. To avoid trial, and because jails and courts are overloaded, the prosecutor will probably try to negotiate an agreement under which you will plead guilty in exchange for some trade-off.
3Let the next stages unfold. The prosecution and your attorney will continue to work on the case, gathering evidence and working on a plan for the trial. You can have plea discussions at any time during the next stages. If the prosecutor discovers that your case will be hard to prove, you may get a better plea deal, including having a felony charge against you reduced to a misdemeanor. However, if the evidence against you is strong, the prosecutor may not offer a deal at all. The next stages of the case include:
- Approximately 90% of criminal cases end with a plea bargain.
- If you do not accept a plea bargain and are found guilty at trial, you are likely to face a much harsher punishment than what you could have accepted under the plea deal.
4Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Your attorney will analyze the elements of the case that the prosecutor will have to prove, as well as how hard it will be for the prosecutor to prove them. Before your attorney enters into plea discussions, he or she should have a good idea of what pieces of evidence the prosecution will be able to use to prove each detail necessary to convict you, and what details are going to be hard to prove.5Negotiate with the prosecution. Your attorney to contact the prosecutor to try to negotiate a plea deal. The attorney should be prepared to argue the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and to remind the prosecutor of the weaknesses in the state’s case against you. The prosecutor will be trying to convince your attorney to persuade you to accept the maximum charge and punishment, while your attorney will be arguing that the prosecutor’s case is weak. Accepting a misdemeanor instead of a felony is often a good middle ground for both sides.
- Discovery: Both sides in collect and exchange information as they assemble evidence and witnesses for trial.
- Motions: Written requests asking court to resolve a disagreement about the law or instruct the parties to do something. A motion’s outcome can affect plea bargaining. For example, a successful motion to exclude important evidence from the prosecution’s case can persuade a prosecutor to offer a favorable plea deal.
- Preliminary hearing: The prosecutor shows the court that the state has enough evidence and witnesses to justify taking the case to trial. The defense can try to prevent evidence from being used at trial by arguing why it should be excluded.
- Trial: Both sides take turns arguing that the you are guilty or innocent. At the end, unless the you waive your right to a trial by jury, the jury will deliberate and decide on a verdict. You can still engage in plea bargaining during pauses in the trial and during jury deliberations.
- Consider this hypothetical: Don is charged with attempted murder, a felony, as a result of a fight between Don and Vic. There is only one witness, Walt, who said that Don tried to kill Vic during the fight. During discovery, Don’s attorney finds out that Walt has always hated Don. Don’s attorney tells the prosecutor that Walt probably embellished his testimony in order to get Don into more trouble. The prosecutor realizes that Walt may not be a good witness, and offers to drop the attempted murder charge if Don will plead guilty to battery, which is only a misdemeanor.
Source: wikihow. com