When a criminal defendant is confronting a criminal case and is set for trial, it is up to the defendant to decide whether to proceed or plead guilty. His or her defense attorney should provide the pros and cons of going to trial.
I do not like my clients pleading guilty to a crime until all and best efforts have been made to discuss and secure alternative offers, sentence, and even criminal charges. If your client is in custody, there is a constitutional right to have the trial heard within 30 days of arraignment, unless the defendant waives this right. If the defendant is not in custody, it is 45 days from the date of arraignment—again it could be waived by the defendant.
Generally, all efforts to investigate the crime, request discovery from the government, hire experts, should be made in order to insure an effective defense. A trial could be months or even years before it is scheduled and at this time the defendant may feel like his/her life is in limbo.
But a good defense attorney should be very clear why there is a delay and advise the defendant of such strategy and the reasons for the continuances. If the defendant does hire a private criminal attorney, fees and costs may be a factor and expenses alone, could be the reason a defendant enters a plea of guilty. But if money is not an issue, a comprehensive defense must be effectuated to insure the best result is reached.
The defendant has a constitutional right to trial but his/her attorney should pursue all options or alternatives prior to taking the case to trial. A plea bargain that is both reasonable, equitable, and agreed to by the defendant should be the objective. Some individuals may be able to enter a diversion program if they are a first offender, do community service, pay restitution to the victim but these terms and conditions must be negotiated with the government and may require the approval of the Court.
However, if all efforts fail and there are severe consequences to a plea of guilty such as losing your professional license or losing your child in a custody matter—then an attorney must discuss in detail with her client the pros/cons of a trial. A trial is never a “sure” thing—it is unpredictable, costly (both time and emotionally) and require a great deal of preparation.
It is critical all efforts of settlement be sought but if all options fail and the defendant does not choose to plea, then a good criminal defense attorney must be prepared to take the case to trial. Any questions and/or comments, email me at [email protected] or call my office at 310-601-7144.
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