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You do not have to automatically accept a plea bargain

As the American Bar Association (ABA) points out, 95 percent of cases are settled first before going to trial, so chances are if you are involved in a criminal case in California, you might receive a proposal to reduce your prison sentence or eliminate it entirely in exchange for a guilty plea to lesser charges. However, even as your defense attorney provides counsel on the matter, remember that the final choice to accept or reject any deal is yours.

If an attorney believes an offer placed on the table by a prosecutor is the best the client can expect and that a trial will likely bring harsh consequences if the client is convicted of the charges, the attorney can counsel the client to take the offer even if the client is more inclined to fight the charges. What an attorney cannot do, however, is accept or reject an offer to settle the charges on behalf of the client. It is up to the client to evaluate the deal presented and to decide how to move forward.

Additionally, if an attorney believes the bargain offer is not entirely fair to the client and that holding out is a better option, the attorney is nonetheless ethically obligated to pass the offer along to the client and to not try to influence a client’s decision by depriving the client of information. However, some clients do counsel their attorneys to reject deals automatically if they do not meet certain thresholds, but this is in keeping with the client’s wishes and is not an override by the attorney.

Also, as FindLaw explains, agreeing to plead guilty to a charge, even a lesser charge, may open you up to admitting certain facts about a criminal case that could grow in importance as evidence is further developed. This is another reason why you may not want to agree to a first offer to settle your case. Instead, you can ask your attorney if there are ways to insulate you from prosecution in the terms of the plea bargain and to try to negotiate for those terms.

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John M. Kucera Attorney at Law

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