In the United States, approximately 90% of all criminal cases are resolved by plea bargaining. In 2003 there were 75,573 cases disposed of in federal district court by trial or plea. Of these, about 95 percent were disposed of by a guilty plea according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The vast majority of criminal cases in Michigan, as well as all felony and misdemeanor cases that are prosecuted in Oakland County, Wayne County, St. Clair County and the Macomb County Courts, are resolved by plea bargaining.What is a plea bargaining?
Plea bargaining (coping a plea, plea deal) is an agreement that is negotiated between the prosecuting and defense attorneys to resolve a case without trial.
At the inception of a criminal case, the prosecutor will normally pursue the maximum charge(s) with the greatest possible penalties. In cases where the prosecutor has a strong case and conviction is probable, a defendant may want to seek a plea bargain rather than run the risk of losing at trial. While a “not guilty” verdict is best possible outcome, it is not always wise to take an “all or nothing” attitude when a favorable plea bargain can be achieved. Therefore, from a defense attorney’s point of view, plea bargaining can be an invaluabale defense tool.
Plea bargaining is almost always explored in the early stages of a criminal case; especially on formal docket proceedings designated as pretrial conference or probable cause conference. However, plea bargaining can occur at any stage of a criminal case including while it is being investigated by the police, during trial or after trial proceedings. Defense counsel has an absolute duty to present any plea bargain or offer to the accused party. In presenting a plea bargain, the defense attorney will consider several factors, sufficiency of evidence and make recommendations for or against. In the end, the decision whether or not to accept a plea bargain rests with the accused party. No person should be bullied into accepting a plea bargain or when a trial is the desired course of action.No-plea bargain/policy cases, deviation requests
Plea bargains are not always on the menu of options in a criminal prosecution. Some cases are labeled as “policy cases” which means that the prosecutor is not willing to engage in a plea bargain or reduction. A prior felony record, crimes involving a serious injury or death, or crimes against children/police/vulnerable persons are usually considered policy cases. In Macomb and Oakland County, domestic violence crimes are labeled policy cases. Similarly, the Macomb County Prosecutor’s office has a policy against reducing super drunk driving (.17 or more). However, even a case that is categorized as a policy case may be negotiated by filing a deviation request. When a deviation is filed, the case may need to be adjourned, or delayed, to allow for presentation of a formal deviation request to a decision maker within the prosecutor’s office.Goals of defense lawyers in the plea bargaining process
The goal of a defense lawyer in the plea bargaining process is to get the best possible outcome. There are numerous scenarios short of going to trial that may be available by plea bargaining. One such scenario is when a felony can be dropped down to a misdemeanor, thus avoiding the harsh stigma and loss of personal rights associated with a felony conviction. Other measurable benefits in gaining a positive plea deal are:
- Retention of personal rights, gun rights
- Keeping matters off of a driving record
- Retention of driving privileges, avoiding points
- Reduction/avoiding Michigan driver responsibility fees
- Improved sentence posture within the Michigan Sentence Guidelines
- Alternative dispositions to get a dismissal & sealed record (HYTA, 7411)
- Getting a juvenile case placed on consent calendar (for dismissal)
- Consolidation of multiple charges for possible later expungement
- Obtaining sentence recommendations from prosecutor
- Settlement of restitution as part of plea bargain
I cannot even count the number of clients that we have saved from having a felony record. Maybe in the thousands. More have benefited from getting charges dismissed and records sealed. Others have obtained results beyond their best expectations when originally faced with serious offenses and jail was on the table. Here is a sample of plea bargain success stories as told by our clients:
- After being ticketed with an OWI while in the state of Michigan I decided it was time to seek out a professional for help. Taking the advice of his firm and following their direction, my charges were reduced down to only a civil infraction.
- I was charged with felony embezzlement. I called 6 local lawyers and Cy seemed the most confident. My charged was dropped down to a misdemeanor and no probation!
- My son had been charged with a felony and a misdemeanor, and we had five days until his court date. I searched the Internet and I was overwhelmed with the myriad of names, not knowing one lawyer from another. The strategy he discussed with us was set in motion, and it was a winning strategy: my son's felony charge was dropped and his misdemeanor charge was reduced.
- I came back home for my birthday and had a great celebration with friends from all over the United States. The law enforcement in Royal Oak decided that being "too loud" was a crime and arrested me. Mr. Abdo saved my career by helping me remove this issue off my record.
- Facing a marijuana and paraphernalia charge I was extremely nervous I could be facing a stiff penalty on account of my past brushes with the law, but Mr. Abdo wasn't going to let that happen. My charges were dropped to a (non-criminal) littering ticket and I was able to pay my fines and walk away.
- After being charged with DUI over .17 BAC (Super Drunk) and having a prior warrant regarding an older offense, I was convinced I would be doing jail time. Matt informed me that due to our efforts I was being allowed to plead my charge down to the lowest possible offense, Operating While Visibly Intoxicated. My previous warrant was dismissed with a $200 fine, and no jail time required.
- On July 4th I got pulled over and was charged with a DUI and possession of marijuana, paraphernalia and failure to signal. The results were exactly as they laid them out. The OWI got knocked down to impaired, which saved me a ton of money in fines and insurance costs, I received a deferred judgement (7411) on the marijuana charge which was eventually dismissed. The other 2 charges were dropped. Matt was with me the whole way and the12 months of probation was recommended was reduced to 6 months.
ABDO LAW has 35 years of experience handling criminal and drunk driving cases. We have a strong reputation in the community and promise to give you the best possible legal representation if you or someone you know is being charged or investigated for a criminal matter. Plea bargaining is just one of the possible options when confronted with criminal charges. Our job is to know when it is the best option, or whether other strategies are essential to protect the rights of our clients.