If you or a loved one is arrested for a crime in Arizona, you will be facing charges for your crime. Depending on the nature of the incident, those charges might be very minor – say, fines, court costs, and probation – or incredibly harsh – years spent in prison with the possibility of the death penalty.
Most people know that more serious crimes are labeled felonies, while crimes of a less serious nature are charged as misdemeanors. All felonies in Arizona come with the possibility of some jail time, but the majority of misdemeanors do not.
When you are arrested and charged, chances are that you are not thinking clearly. You’re scared about what’s happening and whether there’s anything that you can do to get out of it. How will this affect your job? Your family? Your life?
You probably know from watching TV and movies that it is in your best interest to remain silent and request to talk to a lawyer, but when police officers are trying to intimidating you into talking – or sometimes even pretending to be on your side to get what they want – it can be difficult to remember that. They might try to convince you that there is no point to you talking to an experienced Arizona criminal attorney because your charges are so serious that no one will be able to get you off. Or they may make it seem like it’s not worth the effort on your part because the charges are “minor.”
Sometimes, the police will even attempt to get you to say you are guilty in exchange for charging you for a lesser offense. This is called a plea bargain, and you should never enter into one without seeking out the advice of a legal professional. There are no charges too big or too small that an experienced Arizona criminal attorney can’t help. Even in situations where law enforcement officers are trying to convince clients there’s no point of legal counsel, good lawyers have the ability to negotiate based on their knowledge of the law and can often get you a far better deal – sometimes even managing to have charges dropped altogether and the case dismissed. But even in situations where that isn’t possible, a knowledgeable Arizona criminal attorney can help with your plea bargain.
How do Arizona plea bargains work?
As mentioned above, a plea bargain in Arizona means that you are agreeing to plead guilty to the crime in exchange for the state giving you a less serious charge. If your attorney does not believe that he or she will be able to win the case outright, plea bargains are often a good alternative that can be seen as a “win” for both sides. The prosecution is happy because they can say that they got another conviction, and you’ll rest easier knowing that you avoiding the worst possible punishment for the crime you were charged with.
There are a number of different typical scenarios that can happen in a plea agreement. If you have been charged with multiple crimes, the prosecution will often agree to drop the more serious charges if you agree to say that you are guilty to a less serious one. Or, if you have prior conviction that could really make your sentence a harsh one, plea bargaining can mean that they will ignore those old convictions when sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea before trial.
As you might imagine, there’s a lot that goes into a plea agreement, and that’s why it’s important to have an experienced Arizona criminal attorney by your side throughout the process. During the plea bargaining process, good attorneys have the ability to do things like:
- Have a felony lowered to a misdemeanor
- Have a misdemeanor lowered to a simple citation with attached fine
- Turn mandatory prison time into a much easier probation period
It all depends on the strength of your Arizona attorney’s negotiating skills and the facts that he or she can uncover to weaken the case of the prosecution and make them fear going to court – something most people have trouble doing without a legal expert on their side.
In the event of a potential plea agreement, the prosecuting attorney will create a written plea agreement. Talk this over with your attorney. Deciding to take the plea will mean that a plea hearing is scheduled where the judge will question you to make sure you understand what it is you are agreeing to – no trial; you are admitting that you committed the crime and taking the punishment outlined in the plea. You will even have to recount the events of the night of the crime to the judge so that he or she can make sure that your actions actually do constitute a crime.
If the judge does not like the plea agreement for any reason, he or she has the right to reject it, but this doesn’t happen often. After your plea is accepted, you will be sentenced. For misdemeanor charges, sentencing will occur right then and there; for felony cases, sentencing does not occur until 30 days after the plea hearing.
For more information about plea bargaining in Arizona, contact an experienced criminal attorney today for help.