Criminal Defense

How Effective is Your Criminal Defense Lawyer During the Plea Bargain Stage?

December 19, 2022 by Anastasiia Ponomarova in Criminal Defense  
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Most Cases Involve a Plea Deal

In California and the US, a plea bargain is a norm rather than an exception. A plea bargain is a procedure between the prosecutor’s office and the defendant in which the respondent agrees to plead guilty in return for reduced charges.

A reduced jail term (or no prison term at all), reduced costs, or even the dismissal of additional charges are all possible outcomes of a plea bargain negotiation. It could be the best decision in certain circumstances, but it might also be the worst.

Reasons to Accept a Plea Deal

The defense’s best option for resolving many cases is accepting a plea bargain. This is because there are several upsides to accepting a plea bargain, some of which are as follows:

  • Shorter or no prison terms
  • There will be reduced charges
  • A swift and definitive conclusion without the time and expense of a trial

Attorney Obligations During the Plea Bargaining Phase

A defense attorney has many responsibilities throughout the stage of plea bargaining. First and foremost is ensuring that a client is aware of and comprehends every aspect of the issue. A lawyer must constantly describe every facet of the matter, including:

  • The strengths and weaknesses of the case,
  • The likely result of a trial,
  • The conditions of the offer, and
  • The various penalties are discussed.

A defense attorney should assist a client in making a strategic choice by evaluating the case’s strength. If the evidence against a client is substantial and conviction at trial is probable, the attorney must negotiate a plea deal unless the client insists on proceeding to trial. (The attorney cannot confess the client’s guilt against the client’s desires at trial.) An attorney should discuss the risks and advantages of proceeding to trial.

The Beginning Salvo – the Lafler “Record”

The process of contesting the competence of a defense attorney’s counsel in a criminal case often begins with the public record, also known as a “Lafler record.”

The Lafler/Frye line of cases mandates that a criminal defense attorney must not only submit all plea offers to their clients but also give an effective opinion on whether the client should accept or reject the offer.

A Lafler record serves as a “warning ” over the bow of the criminal defense attorney’s vessel. The goal is to “bypass” the privileged conversations between a criminal defense attorney and their client to inform the defendant directly of the State’s plea bargain offer.

A Lafler record will not faze a trained and experienced attorney, but it may be a frightening time for the unprepared, inexperienced, and unsophisticated attorney.

Criminal defense attorneys must communicate all plea deal offers to their clients. But their obligation to the client extends beyond the simple delivery of a settlement offer.

Before delivering counsel on a plea offer, a criminal defense attorney must research the strengths and weaknesses of a criminal case and advise the client on every aspect of every decision taken at every level of the case, including plea bargaining discussions.

Before a criminal defense attorney can assist in any matter, several fundamental questions must be answered.

  • What are the prosecution’s case’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are the defense’s hypothesis, its merits, and its chance of success at trial?
  • What are the potential repercussions of a conviction — the spectrum of potential sentences?

Overcoming a Bad Lawyer’s Incompetence

The Sixth Amendment provides everyone facing criminal prosecution the right to counsel. According to the Supreme Court, criminal defendants are entitled to adequate counsel throughout the plea negotiation stage. Suppose an attorney fails to advise or explain everything to a client effectively or fails to negotiate a plea bargain in place of the client. In that case, the client may have a plausible claim for ineffective aid of counsel.

However, proving that you had incompetent representation after pleading guilty is challenging. In general, you must demonstrate: Your attorney performed poorly and this poor performance affected the result of your case.

If you make a well-informed choice to go to trial, it may not matter if you have the worst attorney possible. If your attorney was constantly asleep or intoxicated in court, but your case was so weak that you would have been convicted anyway, a claim of ineffective assistance will not reverse your conviction.

If you rejected a plea bargain you did not comprehend because your attorney did not completely explain it, you might be able to claim ineffective representation successfully. Courts have found insufficient counsel at the level of plea negotiation in the following instances:

No bargaining on behalf of a defendant, failing to provide impartial, comprehensive, or accurate information and understating or overstating dangers to pressure a defendant to either go to trial or plead guilty.

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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.

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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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