TMZ.COM is reporting that Nicole Ritchie is on her way to Canada with fiance Joel Madden (who has a gig in Calgary with his band Good Charlotte) although her DUI trial was set to start this morning. How can she just leave the country on trial day? Didn't Paris Hilton get in trouble for just being a few minutes late to her hearing? Well, the story is that the DA offered up a plea bargain, and Nicole's lawyers are working on her behalf, finalizing the deal. Maybe the reported documentation that Nicole Ritchie had at the ready, on the unreliability of the drug testing performed on her, was a deal maker? You've seen plea bargains on TV; Law & Order has them all the time. So, if you're in the hoosegow and the word "plea" comes up, what should you do? What is plea bargaining, exactly? It's a negotiation between the prosecutor and the defense attorney in a criminal case to a reach a bargain which can only be effective if the judge approves the deal. Usually, judges do -- they trust the DAs to know what's best, considering all the evidence and the strength of their case, etc. You've seen Fred Thompson discussing this with Sam Waterston for years now. At the other end of the deal, the client has to okay the deal, too. This can be a tough decision to make: plea bargains are NOT a dismissal of all charges, instead they are a compromise in the charges and the assessed punishment. Maybe you get to plead "no contest" instead of "guilty" but you've got to fess up in some matter, and then, you've got to take some type of punishment. Maybe it's probation, or a suspended sentence, or community service, or a fine, in lieu of jail time. It's not going to be a clean getaway. Since you're negotiating incarceration time, your criminal record, and possible monetary fines, having an experience criminal defense attorney acting on your behalf is extremely important in plea bargaining. The DAs do it everyday; you should have someone on your side with that level of experience, too.