Plea negotiations

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Plea negotiations or plea bargains describe the phase where most California cases involving marijuana are resolved. Plea negotiations typically begin as early as the arraignment phase of the criminal court process and can last up until (and, in some cases, even during) one’s trial. In order to obtain the most favorable plea bargain possible, it is vital that the accused hires a California criminal defense lawyer who specializes in marijuana cases and who knows how to critically analyze the flaws in the prosecution’s case.

Plea negotiations help create a path by which both parties can reach a compromise with respect to the charges. While engaging in plea negotiations, both sides generally consider the seriousness of the charged offense, the strengths and weaknesses in the case and the most likely verdict in the event that the case goes to trial. In a typical plea bargain, the accused agrees to plead guilty or “no contest” to at least one charge (usually a lesser or reduced charge than the one he or she was originally charged with) in exchange for a lighter sentence than he or she would receive if convicted by a judge or jury following a trial. For example, a possession for sale charge may be plea bargained down to a simple possession charge, enabling the accused to participate in a drug treatment program instead of being sentenced to jail or prison. Although this is the most common scenario, there are a wide variety of others that parties agree to when participating in plea negotiations, including, but not limited to, a dismissal of some or all of the remaining charges, having a felony reduced to a misdemeanor and providing information about another crime, such as the name of one who manufactures marijuana or the location where another is cultivating marijuana. Because of the overwhelming number of cases that pass through the criminal court system and due to the overcrowding that takes place in jails, the courts generally encourage these types of deals.

Prosecutors don’t have the authority to “force” a judge to accept a plea bargain, although judges typically don’t interfere with deals to which both parties have agreed. Once the prosecutor has recommended the bargain to the judge, the judge’s primary concern will be making sure that the bargain was legally entered into. In order for a plea negotiation to be legally binding, three elements must be satisfied: that the defendant knowingly waived his or her right to a trial, that he or she did so voluntarily and that there is a factual basis to support the charges to which the accused will be pleading guilty or no contest. Assuming that these components have been met, the judge will likely “accept” the plea bargain and take the defendant’s plea “on the record” and in open court.

Plea negotiations are truly an art, where only the savvy will prevail. In order to successfully negotiate a California marijuana-related offense, the defense attorney must be familiar with every element of the charged offense, have a thorough understanding of the actual and potential evidence that may come into play, knowledge of all “lesser included” and related offenses and know how sentencing guidelines regulate those offenses. The outstanding criminal attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm have mastered these areas and, as a result, have an excellent success record when it comes to negotiating their clients’ cases. They keep current with all of the issues that are relevant to California laws regarding marijuana so that they are always able to recognize the weaknesses in the government’s case. For the most trusted legal advice and to be represented by an unsurpassed advocate, contact The Kavinoky Law Firm today for a free consultation.