If you are convicted of a crime what happens next? This is a question that is on every one’s mind if they are arrested and facing criminal charges. The answer to this question is very fact specific. In other words, it depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. There are some general rules that we can discuss and that may apply.

First, if you are charged with a violent offense, a sex crime, a serious possession or sale of drugs, then the answer to the question is different. Serious crimes are treated the harshest in the legal system. Repeat offenders are also treated hard. If you have a prior conviction for a felony and you get charged again, then the consequences are usually much, much worse. It is hard to tell someone facing a serious offense many general points. Obviously, the prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So, a lawyer helping someone has to fully investigate the case, obtain the discovery file from the District Attorney, and research the law. The majority of cases that come through the legal system are resolved by plea bargains.

Plea bargaining takes place between the District Attorney and the attorney for the accused. The person charged should be kept fully informed each stop of the way by his attorney. A lawyer should never call his client and say, “Your trial is next week, the D.A. offered the following plea bargain and if you don’t take it you have to come to trial.” If your case is one of the cases that needs to involve plea bargaining, then it needs to be started early by your attorney so you as the client have adequate opportunity to understand the consequences and talk with your attorney and family. Roughly 97% of all cases are resolved by plea bargaining. Even if the evidence shows that a person is probably guilty, every person has the right to go to trial and make the government prove guilt in open court beyond a reasonable doubt. The truth of the matter is this: If you force the government to trial, and they have a strong case against you, then the government urges the Court to give you a harsher sentence. In the serious cases, the accused can be assured that even in plea bargaining the government is going to both offer a prison sentence and demand one if you go to trial and you are convicted.

What about those non-serious cases. A non-serious case is hard to define. It is essentially a term I am using to help describe things that happen in the legal system. To complicate matters, what may be considered not serious in one Court District, may be considered serious in another. I am calling a non-serious case a first offender case that does not involve violence, a case not involving a sex offense, a serious drug offense, and does not involve the burglary of a house or the theft of a large amount of money. These types of crimes can often be handled in the legal system through various alternative sentencing methods that can be available. There are several options available for first offenders but not all county District Attorneys and Judge’s like to use them. This is something that a lawyer needs to find out and start working on immediately. I will speak on these alternatives in another Blog entitled “Alternatives to Jail.”

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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