In most cases, the answer is “yes.” Fewer than 3 percent of criminal cases go to trial. Prosecutors dismiss a handful of others, perhaps due to a lack of probable cause or a simple lack of interest in the case. Plea bargains resolve all the remaining criminal cases in Wright County.
In almost all cases, the prosecutor and Buffalo criminal defense attorney agree on the plea bargain’s terms. These terms usually include a reduced sentence and/or lesser charges. A handful of pleas are open pleas. Defendants quite literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court. An even fewer number of pleas are slow pleas. In this complex process, the defendant pleads guilty and asks the jury to set punishment.
Wright County criminal defendants normally have several sentencing options. All of them have pros and cons.
This option is available in both felonies and misdemeanors. But since felonies usually involve lenghty prison sentences, most defendants only choose jail time in misdemeanors.
As mentioned, the plea agreement usually involves a shorter sentence. So, an agreed jail sentence could be as short as a month. If the defendant has no work, family, or other obligations, a brief jail sentence may not be a bad idea. This option may be an even better idea if, for whatever reason, a lenghty court supervision period is a poor alternative.
The defendant may not necessarily need to serve “straight time.” Very often, a Buffalo criminal defense attorney can work with the prosecutor on options like:
House Arrest: In some cases, authorities may issue an ankle bracelet or other GPS monitoring device to the defendant. The defendant must then remain in a specified space or area for the duration of the incarceration term.
Weekends: Typically, the defendant checks into the facility late on Friday night, checks out on Sunday, and then repeats the process until the sentence is complete. Many jails give the defendant three days of credit for this period, even though the defendant was only in custody for a little over a day.
Work Release: The defendant basically spends every night, and every weekend, in custody until discharged. This arrangement may be the most flexible one.
If the Wright County jail is crowded, which is usually the case, the sheriff may give inmates three days credit for every one day served.
Most plea bargains between prosecutors and Buffalo criminal defense attorneys involve regular probation. Instead of a jail or prison sentence, the defendant submits to court supervision for a few months or years. Probation conditions vary, but some mandatory conditions apply in all cases. A few highlights include:
Commit No Further Offenses: Sometimes, a subsequent arrest may violate conditions of probation. But in most cases, the defendant must be convicted.
Pay Money: This money usually includes fines, court costs, and supervision fees. If a prosecutor attempts to revoke probation solely on this basis, a Buffalo criminal defense attorney may have a constitutional argument. The Constitution prohibits debtors prisons.
Report to Probation Officer: Typically, the defendant must report in person at least once a month. In most of the motions to revoke probation in Wright County, failure to report is the violation cited.
Be Nice: Probationers must work or go to school full time while they avoid disreputable people and places. This condition is obviously rather hard to enforce.
There are usually some offence-specific conditions as well. For example, DUI probation usually includes an ignition interlock device, victim impact panel, and perhaps drug testing.
If a prosecutor files a motion to revoke, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the reason failure-to-report motions are so common. Prosecutors need only introduce the sign-in log. If the judge finds the defendant violated probation, the judge usually incarcerates the defendant or orders the defendant to serve a few days in jail as a condition of reinstatement.
In these cases, the defendant pleads guilty, but the judge does not find the defendant guilty. Instead, the judge defers proceedings until after the period of probation expires. All the normal conditions and restrictions apply. But if the defendant successfully completes probation, the prosecutor dismisses the case.
So, the defendant only has an arrest record. There is no conviction record. If anyone asks about the arrest, perhaps after checking a “yes” box on a job application, a simple explanation usually makes things better. We usually tell people to say something like “I hired a lawyer and the lawyer took care of it.”
Buffalo criminal defense attorneys know that deferred has some significant downsides as well. For example, if the defendant violates probation, the judge can literally throw the book at the defendant. In regular probation cases, the punishments for violations are much more limited.
In both types of probation cases, it may be possible to terminate the period of probation early. There’s no more need to toe tht line or report to a probation officer. This procedure may have some other benefits as well.