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Understanding Plea Deals in California

Posted by Richard Wagner | Feb 18, 2024

How Does A Plea Deal Work?

Getting into trouble with the law in California disrupts your life in more ways than one. Whether you are innocent or guilty, however, you have a right to a defense. The criminal justice system, though flawed, offers options.

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Plea bargaining can be an option. If offered a plea, the important thing is not to agree to anything without a criminal defense attorney representing you. A settlement offer can be great, but the prosecutor will only offer what favors them, not you.

  • What is a Plea Deal?
  • How Long Do You Have To Accept a Plea Deal?
  • How Long After a Plea Deal Is Sentencing?
  • Can A Judge Reject a Plea Deal?

Criminal defense DUI Attorney Richard Wagner will negotiate a plea deal and advise you on whether to accept it or not, depending on the deal itself and what your chances are of a dismissal or an acquittal. There is a lot that goes into plea deals in Southern California courts, so contact Richard Wagner, Attorney at Law, at (714) 721-4423 to schedule a FREE Consultation to discuss your case.

What is a Plea Deal?

In a plea deal or plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a criminal charge in exchange for certain concessions from the prosecutor. For example, the prosecutor may seek a lesser sentence, reduce the seriousness of the charge, or withdraw or dismiss some of the original charges. 

By accepting a plea deal, your case won't go to trial. A plea deal is effectively a guilty plea and an acceptance of the allegations against you. However, a defendant may plead guilty in order to take advantage of a plea bargain while still asserting his or her innocence. Once a plea deal has been accepted and you enter a plea, the judge will then sentence you to the agreed-upon terms. 

It's difficult to withdraw a plea once you have accepted a plea deal. But in some situations, you may be able to enter a conditional plea. This occurs when the judge rules against you in a pre-trial motion, and you want to appeal this ruling but do not want to go to a jury trial. If you succeed in your appeal against the interim ruling, you can then withdraw your plea.

Types of Plea Deals

Plea deals really do not come in types, but they can be categorized according to the types of things offered. Typically, here are some concessions in return for a guilty or no-contest plea:

  • Reduced number of charges
  • Lesser sentence
  • Downgraded offense
  • Diversion program (mostly for first-time offenders)

A plea deal could involve other things, too. Much of it depends on the particular facts of your case. A criminal defense lawyer will be able to ensure the concessions fit and favor you. This also includes consequences, like alternatives to jail or reduced jail or prison time.

Plea Deal Process in California

The plea deal process generally begins in the early part of a criminal case. The prosecutor weighs certain factors before offering a plea deal. These factors can include:

  • The seriousness of the crime(s)
  • The evidence (e.g., how much or little there is and the quality of it)
  • Potential for recidivism: how likely are you to re-offend?
  • Criminal history

A criminal defense attorney may even approach the prosecutor about a plea deal, and this could occur at any time, whether it's after charges are filed or a jury has begun deliberations.

Court Approval and Plea Agreements in California

A judge must approve a plea deal. Once you have reached an agreement with the prosecution, the judge hears the details of the deal. The judge will ask you to confirm that you are voluntarily entering the plea.

The judge will also confirm that you understand that your plea requires you to waive several constitutional rights, which include:

  • The right against self-incrimination
  • The right to a jury trial
  • The right to confront and cross-examine witnesses
  • The right to produce evidence

After hearing the details of the plea and asking you these questions, a judge may accept or reject the plea deal. 

What to Consider Before Accepting a Plea Deal in California

You should only accept a plea deal after receiving professional legal advice.

Facing a criminal charge can be stressful. So, it can be tempting to accept the first plea deal the prosecution offers you to put an end to the matter. But plea deals are a negotiation process, and with the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney in Southern California, you may be able to reach an agreement that's more favorable to you. 

Once a judge has accepted a plea deal, it's very difficult to withdraw your guilty plea. There are limited circumstances in which you can do so, such as where you were coerced into it or where you were unrepresented and did not fully understand the consequences of your plea. 

At any time before judgment or within 6 months after an order granting probation, and if entry of judgment was suspended, the court may permit you to withdraw your guilty plea and enter a not guilty plea if you can prove good cause. Good cause means that you were "operating under mistake, ignorance, or any other factor overcoming the exercise of your free judgment, including inadvertence, fraud, or duress." 

Knowing the pros and cons of the plea deal is probably the best way to decide whether you should accept or decline it. Your criminal defense attorney should be able to lay these out for you in a way you understand, what the consequences are, and what the alternatives are. The Law Office of Richard Wagner fights for the best possible outcome in your unique case.

How Long After a Plea Deal Is Sentencing?

In misdemeanor cases, you will probably get sentenced right after the judge accepts your plea. However, you have the right to have your sentence take place not less than 6 hours nor more than 5 days after your plea.

For felony cases, if you are eligible for probation, you must be referred for a presentence probation report. Generally, judgment must be pronounced within 20 judicial days after you are convicted. However, when you are referred for a probation investigation and report, the time may be extended "until the probation officer's report is received."

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Southern California Today

A plea deal is ultimately up to you to accept or not. If you are considering a plea deal, you should seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney by contacting The Law Office of Richard Wagner immediately.

Our California criminal defense attorney will explain the process and consequences of the plea offer. Attorney Richard Wagner will assess the strengths of the prosecution's case against you and highlight any weaknesses during the negotiation of a plea deal. When a better deal is on the table, he will outline the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision. Contact Richard by using the online form or by calling (714) 721-4423 to schedule a FREE Consultation.

About the Author

Richard Wagner

Attorney Profile Defense Lawyer Richard Wagner upholds and defends freedoms and liberties enshrined in our United States and California Constitutions.  “Richard was able to achieve an even better outcome for my case than what we initially thought was possible. I couldn't be more grateful to h...