When facing criminal charges, the prospect of going to trial can be daunting. For many individuals, plea bargains and diversion programs offer an alternative way to resolve their case. These options provide an opportunity to avoid the risk and uncertainty of a trial while potentially securing a more favorable outcome. In this article, we’ll explore these options beyond deferred judgments (which we’ve previously explored in detail here) and how they can be utilized in criminal defense strategies.
A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and the defense in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge or agrees to a lighter sentence in exchange for dropping more serious charges or a reduced sentence. Plea bargains are often used in cases where there is strong evidence against the defendant, or the case would be difficult to win at trial. Plea bargains are dependent upon the defendant accepting the “offer” made by the prosecutor to plead to a known count or sentence on the case, often with dismissal of other counts or cases thrown in as a “benefit of the bargain.”
Plea bargains can be beneficial for defendants as they can reduce the risk of harsh penalties and expedite the resolution of their case. They can also be a way to avoid the negative consequences of a conviction, such as a criminal record, job loss, or other collateral consequences.Often our attorneys at COLaw Team will have detailed discussions with our clients regarding the risks and benefits of taking a plea bargain vs. going to trial. If the risk of trial is too great, we have even seen our truly innocent clients take plea bargains or plead “no contest” to charges in order to resolve the case with known outcomes.
Diversion programs are an alternative to traditional criminal prosecution. These programs are designed to address the underlying causes of criminal behavior, such as substance abuse or mental health issues, and provide defendants with an opportunity to receive treatment and rehabilitation outside of the court system.
There are many types of diversion programs, but most often we see cases being dismissed without prejudice in criminal court as soon as a client is accepted into the District Attorneys’ internal diversion program. This allows the treatment to proceed separately without the need to continue coming back to court. If, however, clients fail in the Diversion Program or do not complete their requirements, the DA is free to refile the criminal court case. 99% of our clients who accept a Diversion offer are able to successfully complete it, however, and then are eligible for immediate sealing.
Specialty Courts including drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans’ courts are also an alternative for many clients. These programs vary in their requirements and eligibility criteria, but they generally involve regular court appearances, counseling or treatment, and community service. In these cases, a judge will oversee a multidisciplinary team made up of probation, mental health professionals, substance abuse experts, etc. to try to encourage succesful change for defendants. Successful completion of a specialty court’s requirements may result in the reduction of the sentence and lifelong changes being made.
These programs can be beneficial for defendants as they provide an opportunity to address the root causes of their criminal behavior and potentially avoid a prison sentence. Most specialty courts deal with felony-level cases, as a result. They can provide defendants with the support they need to make positive changes in their lives.
Criminal Defense Strategies
Plea bargains, diversion programs, and specialty courts are just some of the many options available to criminal defendants. The best option for a particular case will depend on the individual circumstances and the goals of the client.
It’s important to note that not all cases are eligible for plea bargains, diversion programs, or specialty courts. In some cases, going to trial may be the best option. A criminal defense attorney like those at COLaw Team can help defendants explore all of their options and develop a strategy that best fits their needs.
Plea bargains, diversion programs, and specialty courts are valuable tools in the criminal justice system that can help defendants avoid the risk and uncertainty of a trial while potentially securing a more favorable outcome. These alternatives to trial can provide defendants with an opportunity to address the underlying causes of their criminal behavior, receive treatment and rehabilitation, and potentially avoid a conviction and the negative consequences that come with it.
If you are facing criminal charges, it’s important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you explore all of your options and develop a strategy that best fits your needs. With the right strategy and the right representation, you can successfully navigate the criminal justice system and achieve the best possible outcome.