Sep 27, 2019 Plea deal – Fairfax criminal lawyer on bargaining from a strong trial position
Plea negotiations are a reality of criminal defense, underlines Fairfax criminal lawyer
Plea negotiations — better called settlement negotiations, because a dismissal is a better settlement than a negotiated conviction — are a stark reality of criminal defense. As a Fairfax criminal and DUI lawyer, I know that attorneys who do not want to engage in plea negotiations do not belong doing criminal defense. One of our obligations as criminal defense attorneys is to reduce the harm done to our clients and to help our clients make informed decisions with case negotiations.
Not all criminal defendants are going to win at trial, and, federal felony prosecutions tend to bring the worst acquittal prospects. Those who want to engage in realpolitik will want their lawyers to engage in settlement negotiations. Political activists, other criminal defendants acting on principal, and those not willing to fall on their own sword due to the collateral harm from a conviction might outright refuse any negotiations. The criminal defense lawyer must abide by that choice.
Plea negotiations must always come from a position of trial readiness
Plea negotiations must always come from a position of trial / combat readiness. When a criminal defense lawyer does the opposite, the opposition smells blood and offers a lame deal at best, and the criminal defendant thinks of his or her lawyer as a plea pusher rather than as a courthouse warrior.
Risks need to be taken with settlement negotiations
Settlement negotiations involve risk. My view is to proceed to trial if the likely outcome being convicted for doing so are no worse than the likely outcome ranges from accepting the last plea offer. Sometimes proceeding to trial actually brings better settlement offers, even in the midst of trial when the prosecutor sees a witness(es) bombing during testimony.
Risks must be taken that plea negotiations may collapse if the defense keeps pursuing a better deal than the prosecutor’s last offer.
Criminal defendants are wise to choose a lawyer skilled both with trials and negotiations
As sexy as trials might be for a lawyer, I am reminded of the sage words of a lawyer interviewing me at a civil litigation firm early in my career, who urged the importance first of pursuing settlement negotiations, including through knowing what the other side wants. The lawyer with little trial experience might overlook that in his or her excitement to get more trial experience. The experienced trial lawyer does not let such excitement cloud his or her negotiating approach nor advice to the criminal defense client.
In the end, criminal defense lawyers need fight like hell for their clients. That does not mean yelling fire and brimstone, but means being fully ready with all lawful means necessary to obtain the best possible results for their clients, being ready to rattle the opponent’s agenda, and to pursue the best trial outcome whether or not the defendant seems ill-advised to have rejected the last plea offer.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz comes to the negotiating table from a position of strength, trial readiness, and experience having skilfully taken hundreds of criminal court cases to trial. To discuss your case with Jon Katz, please call hsi staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a strictly confidential appointment.