BloomLegalTV: Criminal Procedure 102
Posted on Jan 7, 2014 in Bloom Legal TV
Hi, this is Seth Bloom with Bloom Legal. Thanks for joining us again for another one of our editions of our video blogs.
Earlier we filmed a video blog called Criminal Procedure 101. I’m going to run with that video and go a little bit further. I’m going to call this Criminal Procedure 102.
Really, what we’re going to be dealing with today is pleas and plea bargaining, what that really means, and how important that is in the criminal justice system today. As a criminal defense lawyer and at Bloom Legal I would say a huge percentage of our case load is criminal defense. But, with TV shows, ‘LA Law,’ all these shows, everything always ends up in a jury trial.
In actuality, at the federal court level, almost 97 percent and higher of cases are plead out. In the state courts just about all over the country you’re at levels slightly lower than that. You’re somewhere between 93 and 95 percent.
What does that mean? That means a lot of what your lawyer’s going to do and a lot of the work you need to be working on is working out a plea agreement. Unfortunately, all the people I represent are not innocent. Some of them are guilty. They’re not bad people. They just maybe have chosen to do something wrong, or they made a mistake, or are in violation of the law.
What do we have to do with them? We have to help these people. We have to minimize their mistake. Most often, what we do is we meet with the district attorney, or the prosecutor if it’s a city attorney, and we talk with them about working out the case.
For instance, if someone is caught with an ounce of marijuana and they’re charged with felony possession to distribute marijuana, then we may often try to reduce that and see if they will take a lesser charge, like a possession of marijuana, which on a first attempt is a misdemeanor in the state. That way the person wouldn’t have a felony record. That’s the biggest part right now. It’s one of the biggest parts of the criminal justice system. Actually, the US Supreme Court just decided to analyze this. Because really the power is not with the judge.
People always ask me what’s the judge going to think, what’s the judge going to think. Other than pretrial motions and the actual trial, the judge won’t have a lot of impact on that. That means everything up until trial is negotiating with the prosecutor, the city attorney, the state attorney, the district attorney, and getting a fair deal for both parties.
The reason that there are so many plea deals is going to trial is extremely risky. On many cases most misdemeanors you’re only entitled in the state of Louisiana to a judge trial. There are few misdemeanors where you do get jury trials.
But, it’s very risky whether it’s a felony case or whether it’s a misdemeanor case to take a case to trial. You lose control at trial, even if you have the best attorney or a good attorney like I think we are here at Bloom Legal. It can be very difficult to win trials. It can be very nerve-racking.
One has to weigh. For instance, in that case I talked about earlier, let’s say someone’s charged with a possession with intent to distribute, a felony marijuana case. They say it wasn’t my stuff. I want to take this to trial, and I want to be found not guilty. Because it was my friend’s, and it was a rental car, there was some other excuse they have.
I’ll say that’s great, let’s take it to trial. But, then we start talking with the district attorney. The district attorney offers us a misdemeanor possession of marijuana. I have to turn to the client and say well, client, what do you want to do. Do you want to risk going to trial and losing and having a felony conviction? Or, do you want to take a misdemeanor or maybe some sort of probation deal and getting it finished up?
The other thing I wanted to talk about is there’s not only plea deals, but there’s also diversion. Basically, diversion is where instead of going to trial, instead of pursuing the case any further, you’re put on like a probationary period. If you complete that probationary period the charge is actually dropped against you.
That’s different than a plea deal. In a plea deal, and I don’t want to mislead people, you are being convicted of a crime. But, in many cases the evidence against you is so great that you have to weigh your options and not just roll the dice.
A lawyer like myself or another good criminal defense attorney can help you make the decision. So, if you want to come in and talk about it we give consultations here at Bloom Legal. We can help you. We can look at your criminal defense case, and we can decide what’s the best for you. We’ll engage actively with the city prosecutor, with the state attorney, with the district attorney, and hopefully reduce it and get you the best possible deal.
You know what? If that deal isn’t good enough for you, or if that’s not the right deal, taking it to trial is always there on the table. We certainly want to do that for all our clients. We’re not scared of trials. If we need to take our cases to trial we will.
But, if it makes sense for a good plea deal, it’s important. It’s not sexy to make a TV show about 97 percent of cases being plead out. But, in actuality it is what happens. Recently, like I said before, such a big part of the criminal justice system now is involved in plea deals and plea agreements that the Supreme Court has actually looked at that.
In some cases district attorneys will overcharge you with a crime. For instance, let’s say you’re found with three or four grams of marijuana, and they decide we’re going to charge you with a distribution charge. Then, we’ll negotiate down the plea.
Well, in many cases that’s not necessarily ethical, because you probably should have been charged with a lesser charge from the start. But, overcharging is something that district attorneys do. It’s something that we identify here at Bloom Legal and we certainly try to fight.
If you have any questions about drug cases, plea deals, any other sort of criminal defense case, we’d be glad to help you out here at Bloom Legal. My name’s Seth Bloom. My phone number’s 504-599-9997. We’re located in the warehouse district at 700 Camp Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130. Thanks a lot.