BloomLegalTV: Criminal Procedure 102

Seth Bloom: 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 so I’m gonna run with that video and go a little bit further. So I’m gonna call this Criminal Procedure 102. But really what we’re gonna be dealing with today is pleas and plea bargaining and what that really means, and how important that is in the criminal justice system today. As a criminal defense lawyer, in a Bloom Legal, I would say a huge percentage of our caseload is criminal offense. But people often with TV shows L.A. Law all these shows, everything always ends up in a trial, in a jury trial. In actuality, at the federal court level almost 97% higher of cases are plead out, and in the state courts just about all of the country, you’re at levels slightly lower to that. You’re somewhere between 93 and 95%.

So what does that mean? Well, that means a lot of what your lawyer is 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 have maybe chose to do something wrong, or they made a mistake or in violation of the law. So what we have to do with them? We have to help these people. We have to minimize their mistake. And 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. So 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 where the person wouldn’t have a felony record. So that’s the biggest part right now. It’s one of the biggest parts of the criminal justice system, and actually, the U.S. Supreme Court just decided to analyze this because really the power is not with the judge.

People always ask me, “What’s the judge gonna think? What’s the judge gonna think? Other than pre-trial motions in the actual trial, the judge won’t have a lot of impact on that. So 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’s so many plea deals is because 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 a 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, they could be very difficult to win trials, it could be very nerve wracking, 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, and they say, “Hey, it wasn’t my stuff. I wanna to take this to trial, and I wanna be found not guilty because it was my friends, it was a rental car,” there were some other excuse they have. I’ll say, “Well, that’s great, let’s take it to trial.” But then we start talking the District Attorney. The District Attorney offers us a misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

And I have to turn the client say, “Well, client, what do you wanna do? Do you wanna 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 or…and basically what diversion is, diversion is where instead of going to trial, instead of pursuing the case any further, you’re put on like a probationary period. And if you complete that probationary period, the charge is actually dropped against you. And that’s different than a plea deal. In a plea deal, and I don’t mislead people, in a plea deal, 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 that decision. So if you want to come in and talk about it, we give free 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, and 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, and 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 it’s not sexy to make a television TV show about 97% of cases being pled out but it’s in the actuality it is what happened. And 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. So, 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, and then we’ll negotiate down the plea. Well, in many cases that’s not necessarily ethical because you probably should have been charged 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 criminal defense case we’d be glad to help you out here at Bloom Legal. My name is Seth Bloom, phone number’s 504-599-9997, we’re located in the Warehouse District 700 Camp Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130. Thanks a lot.

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