What is a Plea Deal and Deferred Prosecution in Arizona?
If you are facing criminal charges, you will be tasked with choosing whether your case should be brought to trial or if you should accept a plea deal, assuming one is made available. In certain situations, the prosecution will offer deferred prosecution participation for specific criminal charges. It is particularly interesting to note a very small number of cases that ended up being terminated actually went to trial. Let’s take a closer look at plea deals and deferred prosecution.
The Appeal of Plea Deals
Most defendants choose a plea deal or deferred prosecution when the option is available. The logic in this strategy is it avoids a trial verdict’s uncertainty and potentially punitive sentencing. In some situations, it makes sense for prosecutors to offer a plea deal and a diversion program to minimize the number of cases heard by the court and safeguard resources necessary for trials.
Defendants are tasked with determining whether their statements made for plea negotiation purposes or a deferred sentence can be used against them if those charges are subsequently prosecuted. Let’s take a closer look at what deferred prosecution, plea agreements and legal advocacy are really all about.
Deferred prosecution does not involve pleading guilty. Rather, there is an agreement to participate in a specialized program through the court that serves as an alternative to the prosecution of a specific type of criminal charge. Once the program is successfully completed, the charges are dismissed. If the program is not completed, the state will move forward in prosecuting the charges. However, it is important to note statements made during pre-trial discussions as well as written statements used as a prerequisite for the program have the potential to be used against you.
Plea agreements involve the defendant pleading guilty in exchange for a more lenient sentencing. If an agreement is reached, the judge presiding over the case will either approve or reject that plea agreement. However, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the case will head to trial. Keep in mind, statements that might have been incriminating and made to advance plea discussions can’t be used against the defendant if he or she later determines accepting the plea agreement is not the best course of action.
Whether your legal matter involves deferred prosecution or a plea agreement, it is important to obtain representation through legal counsel without delay. At a bare minimum, it is in your interest to consult with an attorney prior to the initial court appearance which is typically the arraignment. If an offer is extended by the prosecution and you lack an attorney, the terms probably won’t be favorable if you decide hiring an attorney at a later date is prudent.
There are some situations in which defendants do not qualify for a deferred prosecution program. In some situations, the court does not offer deferred prosecution for the charges. The moral of this story is it is in every defendant’s interest to rely on an experienced criminal defense attorney to review legal options, safeguard rights and make progress in qualifying for a program.
If there is a plea agreement, the criminal defense attorney will ensure its terms are constitutional, fair and favorable. When in doubt, choose an experienced criminal defense attorney who has successfully represented defendants in similar cases. Hiring a criminal defense attorney with strong negotiation and litigation skills along with familiarity with the local court systems as well as the nuanced rules of procedure in the jurisdiction where the arrest occurred sets the stage for justice to be served.