Pleas / Plea Bargaining
Very few criminal cases ever actually go to trial. Some cases are thrown out because of problems with the prosecution’s case, but many other criminal cases are settled outside of court as the result of a plea agreement between the prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and the alleged offender.
Either side in a criminal case can initiate plea negotiations, and plea bargaining can continue throughout the criminal justice process. While plea bargains help both alleged offenders and prosecutors avoid the costs and uncertainty of trials, the offers involving reduced sentences and/or charges made by prosecutors can be difficult for some people to accept when they believe they are truly innocent of the offenses for which they have been accused.
Lawyer for Pleas and Plea Bargaining in Brooksville, FL
Were you recently arrested for any kind of alleged criminal offense in Central Florida? Do not attempt to enter into any plea negotiations with a prosecutor until you have legal representation. Ashley M. Aulls, P.A. can fight to help you achieve the most favorable outcome to your case with the fewest possible penalties.
Brooksville criminal defense attorney Ashley Aulls represents clients in Spring Hill, Weeki Wachee, Inverness, Wildwood, New Port Richey, and surrounding communities in the greater Hernando County area. Call (352) 593-4115 right now to set up a free initial consultation that will let our lawyer review your case and answer all of your legal questions.
Overview of Pleas and Plea Bargaining in Florida
- What are the possible pleas in criminal cases in Hernando County?
- How does plea bargaining work?
- Where can I find more information about pleas and plea bargaining in Brooksville?
Under Rule 3.170 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, alleged offenders in criminal cases can enter one of three pleas:
- Not Guilty — The alleged offender denies the criminal charges against him or her and the prosecutor must prove the individual’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt;
- Guilty — The alleged offender admits to committing the criminal offense as charged and waives his or her right to trial; or
- Nolo Contendere — More commonly known as a “no contest” plea, an alleged offender—with the consent of the court—does not admit guilt but allows the court to impose a punishment for the alleged criminal offense. The primary benefit of a no contest plea is that the alleged offender’s plea cannot be used against him or her in other civil or criminal proceedings.
In most criminal cases, alleged offenders initially enter not guilty pleas as their cases move toward trial. Not guilty pleas can always be changed to guilty or nolo contendere pleas later on, but changing guilty or nolo contendere pleas to not guilty pleas can be far more difficult.
When an alleged offender is charged with a criminal offense, a prosecutor wants to obtain a conviction. In an effort to get the alleged offender to plead guilty—and thus eliminate the time and resources that would have to be dedicated to a trial—a prosecutor may offer the person accused of the crime the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge or the same charge with a reduced sentence.
Criminal defense attorneys can negotiate plea agreements on behalf of their clients, but the alleged offenders always have final say on whether to accept them. Courts still have final approval of all pela agreements.
Plea bargaining can often provide beneficial outcomes for alleged offenders who know that they are guilty of certain criminal offenses, but plea deals can be much trickier issues for people who believe that they are truly innocent of the crimes they have been charged with. In such cases, alleged offenders must consider whether the risk of possibly being convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term outweighs pleading guilty to a lesser charge or receiving a reduced sentence.
It is critical for any person accused of a crime to make sure that they have an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will put the alleged offender’s best interests first and foremost in all plea bargaining discussions. Again, prosecutors and defense attorneys can engage in plea discussions throughout the duration of a criminal case all the way up to trial.
Tough Sentences Help Prosecutors Push for Plea Bargains — On September 25, 2011, the New York Times published this story examining the impact that tougher crime laws had on getting more alleged offenders to plead guilty rather than take their cases to trial. According to the Times, the ratio of guilty pleas to criminal trial verdicts in federal district courts in 1977 was a little more than four to one, but the ratio in the year before the story was published was almost 32 to one. The Times story focuses heavily on Florida, including one case in which an alleged offender accused of beating his girlfriend and threatening her with a knife was offered plea deals of two years and five years in prison, but rejected those offers because he believed he was not guilty. The prosecutor’s response was to file a more serious charge that would mean a mandatory sentence and life imprisonment if the man was convicted. “Judges have lost discretion, and that discretion has accumulated in the hands of prosecutors, who now have the ultimate ability to shape the outcome,” University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell told the Times. “With mandatory minimums and other sentencing enhancements out there, prosecutors can often dictate the sentence that will be imposed.”
Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376 (2012) — The United States Supreme Court issued two important decisions relating to inadequate assistance of counsel on March 12, 2012. In this case, the alleged offender was charged under Michigan law with assault with intent to murder, possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and for being a habitual offender. He was convicted on all counts and received a mandatory minimum sentence of 185 to 360 months' imprisonment after rejecting numerous plea offers on the advice of his attorney, but the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit remanded the case for further proceedings. On the same day this opinion was issued, the Supreme Court also ruled in Missouri v. Frye, 132 S.Ct. 1399 (2012) that the alleged offender pleaded guilty to felony charges of driving with a revoked license. The man’s attorney failed to inform him of two possible plea offers from the prosecutor, and the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the judgment of the Missouri Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Ashley M. Aulls, P.A. | Brooksville Plea Bargaining Lawyer
If you were arrested in Central Florida for a criminal offense, a plea agreement may allow you to receive a sentence that is much less severe than what could result from being convicted at trial. In order to do this, you will want to immediately contact Ashley M. Aulls, P.A. for dedicated legal counsel.
Ashley Aulls is a criminal defense attorney in Brooksville who represents clients in communities throughout Pasco County, Sumter County, Citrus County, and Hernando County. He can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (352) 593-4115 or submit an online contact form to receive a free, confidential consultation.