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Let's make a Deal

Here's the deal

The District Attorney will most likely try to make a deal with you in a criminal case. The deal will be an inticement for you to plead guilty now to some crime for the possibility of a lesser sentence than if you were to be found guilty at a trial. Some deals might make sense for you. Each case is different.

A deal will give the District Attorney a conviction. That is something they are seeking. The offer of the deal can often mean the prosecutor is not sure he can win his case. It also saves money and time for the State or whatever entity is involved in the proceedings against you. The prosecution can save time and money and still be guaranteed a conviction. The conviction might carry jail or prison time or it might be agreed in advance that the defendant will be placed on probation. Probation costs the state considerably less than prison.

For the defendant, the deal might make sense if the crime in question has a long prison sentence and the chances of acquital seem slim.

The bad news for any defendant making a deal is he or she will certainly have a conviction on their record. There will never be an appeal possibility if you make a deal. Your legal grievance will fall on deaf ears after you make a deal. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but it is much more difficult to appeal anything after pleading guilty.

Is the deal binding?

The short answer to the question, "Is the deal binding?" is "no." If the District Attorney's office has said if you plead guilty to a crime you will get probation and time served, but the judge thinks you should go to prison, the judge can refuse to accept the deal and he will ask you to withdraw your plea before he sentences you. Do not make any long confession as part of a deal. Plead guilty but do not go into any detail because the deal might be overruled. The judge will never actually recognize a "deal." He or she will only say things like, "I understand there is an agreement between the parties to offer leniency for a guilty plea and that the defendant has plead guilty because he or she is guilty and for no other reason. In return the District Attorney is dropping the charges on count two and three and recommending probation..." Then the judge will, if he agrees, say, "I sentence you to ten years in prison for the crime of... and that sentence is suspended and you are placed on probation with time served... Next case."

If you are innocent or if you are sure you can win the case, it is best to not make a deal. If you should lose a case in front of a jury or a judge, you can appeal that forever. A large number of prisoners are released each year after appealing their conviction. Many inocent people do go to prison. The system is not perfect.

The deal is an understanding. It is an agreement. The judge is the person who will decide the sentence. Usually a judge will agree to any arrangement in the deal. There is no guarantee.

Jury Trial or Deal?

Juries can be very helpful for you if they relate to you. All you need is one juror to think you are not guilty. If you have knife scars on your face and a broken nose and a bullet wound in your neck you might have a hard time convincing a jury you were not in a bar fight. The jury is not supposed to consider your appearance. They will consider your appearance. If you look like a little angel it will not hurt you. Dress for the jury. Your facial expressions matter. If you always look guilty, maybe it is time to make a deal.

Taking a Chance

Attorney/Client

Drop charges

Dismissal of charges should be part of any deal. After a certain period of time, such as five years probation, all charges should be dropped and records should be sealed. All of your Civil Rights should be restored.

Trust nobody

If you make a deal be sure to maintain a contact with your attorney. Be sure the attorney makes an effort to get in touch with you if you go to jail or prison to be certain things are as they were agreed to be.

Terms of the Deal

What if you are asked to testify against a friend to get a deal? If you do so you will become an informant or "snitch." If ever you do go to a prison after that you will need to live in Protective Custody. I mention this only because nobody else will tell you this simple truth. Whether it is a good thing or bad thing it is how it is. I would suggest if you think there is a possibility you will be going to prison someday, read about the prison takeover and riot in New Mexico in 1980. Read about Cellblock 4 which housed prisoners in protective custody, who in some cases died by blowtorch.

That New Mexico prison had been playing a "snitch game" in which guards told prisoners that certain individuals were "informers," even though it was not true. It became a death sentence.

If you are asked to plead guilty to a charge which involves sexual conduct be sure you are not opening the door to something which will follow you after the sentence has been served. Some states, many states, have laws which require sex offenders to register and report to agencies and carry labels around their necks forever.

No Deal

If you do not make a deal you will not have a conviction unless a trial by jury or by judge finds you guilty. You will certainly be entitled to be out on bail as you go about helping your attorney win your case. If you are found guilty, the judge should not give you any greater sentence than what the deal was you originally were offered. Often sentences run concurrently. That means if you are sentenced for three counts of drug possession, and each is five years, they very likely will run concurrently and not consecutively.

You will immediately be able to appeal the sentence if you are convicted by a judge or jury.