Plea Bargaining in Felony Cases

Criminal Defense Lawyer Assisting Residents of the Phoenix Region

Most criminal convictions in Arizona result from plea bargaining. While most people would prefer to simply have the charges dismissed, a more common resolution of a criminal charge is a plea bargain. Another option is deferred prosecution. Courts encourage plea bargains because they are more efficient than going to trial. With legal representation from an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney, a defendant may be able to negotiate a lesser punishment with the prosecution through plea bargaining in felony cases. The result may be reduced or dropped charges, or the prosecution's recommendation to the court of a more lenient sentence. James Novak is an experienced criminal attorney who previously worked as a prosecutor. He can put his insights about the other side to work for you when engaging in plea bargaining.

Plea Bargaining in Felony Cases

Plea agreements are a method of resolving a criminal case under the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure without going to trial. The prosecutor and the defense attorney discuss the case and its strengths and weaknesses, and they agree to terms by which it may be resolved without going to trial. Generally, a defendant must enter a guilty plea with regard to a particular charge or charges in exchange for a more lenient sentence. In a felony case, this may involve pleading guilty to lesser felony charges or to misdemeanor charges. For example, if the prosecution believes that it would have a difficult time proving a serious bodily injury in a felony aggravated assault case, it may be willing to accept a guilty plea for assault, which is a misdemeanor.

A plea bargain is supposed to be constitutional and fair, and once you enter into a plea agreement, your decision to plead guilty pursuant to the agreement is supposed to be voluntary, knowing, and intelligent. A plea is only found involuntary if you lacked information of true importance in the decision-making process. Among other things, your attorney should inform a foreign national if a plea carries a risk of deportation.

Once the prosecution and the defense reach an agreement, the judge reviews it. The judge has the discretion to approve or reject the deal.

Many people wonder why they should plead guilty, particularly if they do not believe that they are guilty. However, there are often benefits to reaching a plea agreement. For example, it may be possible to get certain charges dismissed, get felonies reduced to misdemeanors or felonies that are punished less harshly, secure an agreement from the prosecution that it will not try to get you sentenced for an aggravated felony, get alternatives to incarceration such as probation, and avoid the risk of going to trial.

However, it is important to keep in mind the potential disadvantages as well. For example, there is a chance that the prosecution cannot prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Perhaps there is some very strong evidence that supports your version of events that a prosecutor is refusing to consider during the plea bargaining process. There is a possibility that you will receive an acquittal or a more lenient sentence by going to trial than you would under the plea agreement. At our firm, we will do our best to inform you what the real risks are so that you can make a judicious decision as to whether or not to accept a plea. We understand that you will have a criminal record and the potential for some incarceration if you plead guilty, whereas if we win at trial, you would not.

You have certain rights when you go to trial, and you lose those through a plea bargain. When you accept a plea bargain, you waive your right to appeal the conviction as long as your plea was knowing and voluntary. You also waive the right to question witnesses or cross-examine them.

Seek Guidance from a Felony Defense Attorney in Phoenix or Surrounding Areas

If you are charged with a felony, you may have many questions about the plea bargaining process. It is vital to hire a tough, experienced lawyer to bargain knowledgeably and aggressively and to present a strong defense if a deal cannot be reached. James Novak represents defendants throughout the Phoenix area, including in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, and elsewhere in Maricopa County. Contact James Novak at (480) 413-1499 or via our online form.

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