How Do I Plea Bargain To Get Felony Charges Dropped Or Reduced?
Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.
My first response to that question would be very simple, you don’t! However if a person is absolutely determined not to hire a lawyer to represent them then the most effective thing that can be done is not going to be the most popular and that is to ask for straight jail or prison time. This sounds pretty far out of the box but let me explain why. If a person represents themselves, a prosecutor who is on the job the first day has at least had 3 years of legal training before they stepped foot in a courtroom. A layperson really has more than 3 hours of self education even if they spend a lot of time on the internet looking for things that are not actually helpful.
The internet is a mixed blessing because most of the law is hidden behind the pay walls and consist of what is known as the laws of the case. Most people are usually not aware of that. As a result when they go into court and try to handle their case on their own, the prosecutor quickly smells blood in the water, as we say near the coast and the shark starts feeding. What I mean by that is a probation sentence will have more conditions attached to it than one negotiated by a lawyer on the client’s behalf. As a result, it is very easy to violate. What happens next is the person ends up in violation, they don’t have a bond and then they are stuck going back to court with a lower burden of proof than the initial case and they can get much more time.
So if a person is absolutely determined that they are going to handle their case on their own, they are probably better off bypassing all of those extra conditions of probation, house arrest or in felony cases, community control and should just ask for the lowest amount of jail or prison time that they think the state attorney will bide on. However there is an old expression that comes to mind, “A lawyer that represents himself has a fool for a client.” If this is true for a lawyer, what does that mean for a layperson?
Will I Go To Jail?
The truthful answer is I have no idea. It takes a certain amount of time, investigation and effort to determine the strength of someone’s case, conduct successful plea negotiations and arrive at an outcome. A lot of times people convince themselves that the evidence is against them without fully considering that the evidence does not matter if it cannot be used in court. This is why such things as motions for admissibility of certain types of evidence, for example there was a recent stand your ground case where a pre-trial motion was filed to determine whether or not evidence was sufficient to justify a jury instruction and it had a great impact on the case.
If you look at DUI cases and drug cases, one of the most powerful motions that we have is a motion to suppress the evidence and sure enough, an Okaloosa County Case out of Fort Walton Beach came across my desk just yesterday and I took the time to review the officer’s body-cam evidence. What I found completely shocked me. I found no less than 9 separate legal errors sufficient to justify the exclusion of the evidence. Now I could have immediately drafted a motion to suppress but I was so surprised by the sheer number of violations by officers who know they are being recorded that I picked up the phone and called the prosecutor.
The first words out of her mouth when I asked if she had viewed the 3rd video in particular were, “There were so many problems in that case, I was reluctant to file an information of indictment on it but the officer had stated in the probable cause report that they had smelled the odor of marijuana. Nevertheless I knew that anybody who took a look at this case was going to find out that there were problems.” At this juncture, I said, “Well there are several different ways we can handle this. I can file a motion to suppress that you have coverage for nolle prosse or voluntary dismissal. We can agree now for you to nolle prosse and work together to craft a language that can go on this public document. Alternatively, we can go through a long and contested hearing.”
In my years of experience, I’ve learned that a lot of prosecutors will just nolle prosse it outright in order to bypass the time eating aspect of a hearing that can easily last half to three quarters of a day. What she said shocked me. She said, “I just had a half day motion to suppress hearing because the officer argued with me and told me I was wrong and said sure enough, we have to do a motion to suppress hearing. ” Now this was a client who was deeply concerned and asked this very question, “Will I go to jail? Can I go to prison? I’m afraid that I’ll get jail time or prison time and probation. Can that happen to me?” Questions like this. Sure enough when I got into the case I found out that she had defenses that I could not have predicted beforehand.
This is something when people are asking if they will go to jail need to consider. That is a question which is entirely too premature on a free initial consultation or to simply ask on a question and answer internet forum because until a lawyer gets into a case and analyzes the data, it’s like someone having chest pain who calls up the doctor and says, ” Am I having a heart attack? Am I going to die?” the doctor is going to have to say,” I don’t know but we need to have that checked out.” The same is true with every criminal case. If someone is charged with a criminal offense in the state of Florida, they absolutely need to find the best criminal defense lawyer that they possibly can to prevent if at all possible incarceration and a lifetime of consequences.
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