Avoid Lengthy Trials
Video Transcribed: What is the best time in a case for plea negotiations? I’m Oklahoma lawyer James Wirth, and that’s a question that we have.
When we’re representing clients being charged by the state or by a city with a criminal offense, a lot of times they’ll want us to pursue and work a deal, try to get this done sooner rather than later, and that makes a lot of sense. Most cases end up getting resolved through plea negotiations and plea deals rather than going to trial.
In fact, if all the cases went to trial, there wouldn’t be enough courtroom time or prosecutors to try them. So there is leverage from the defense side in order to try to get a deal worked out, and it is common to where prosecutors sometimes push for charges that are more severe than what the facts require and try to use that as leverage to get deals worked out. So it is common for both sides to have a little bit of strategic planning there to find a common ground and plea deals that work for both sides and get cases resolved without a lot of time in an actual trial.
But there are good times for plea negotiations and there are bad times for plea negotiations, and sometimes we have clients like, why aren’t you trying to negotiate something at this time or that time? So when is the right time to negotiate on a plea?
And that is, you wanna do that before the state is required to do work or the prosecutor is required to do work. So if you show up at an arraignment, particularly in larger counties like Tulsa County, you may not even have a district attorney there. Certainly, the ADA that is on that docket is not gonna be the one that’s probably gonna be handling the case later. So there is no incentive for the state or the prosecutor to offer a good deal at that time.
So sometimes in the right circumstances, it may make sense to do something, but most of the time you wanna wait for the right time, and that is gonna be if it’s a felony, at the time right before the preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, the state’s got the burden to show by probable cause that the crime was committed, the defendant committed it. That requires work. That requires them to be in court in an evidentiary hearing, putting on witnesses and testimony, and being sure that they check all their boxes to establish jurisdiction as well as each element of the offense. That’s work.
And as I said earlier, the state doesn’t have time to put in full work on every case for a trial, so there is leverage, and that’s when you wanna negotiate, is right before the preliminary hearing to where you can say, you’ve gotta put on this hearing and do all this work, or we can get this worked out if we can be reasonable about it.
The other obvious time is before trial. Trials are an extensive amount of time and work, and if it can be resolved by a plea agreement that is agreeable to the state but also favorable to the defense, that is a good time to work that leverage.
The times in between those, you’re not likely to get as much attention from the state because if they can put that case off, then they don’t care. If they can put that case on some other prosecutor’s desk and it’s not gonna be their problem, then they don’t care. They don’t wanna be the one responsible for giving a really good deal if they don’t have to, so you wanna get in a position where they are at that last time period where they either have to put this hearing on or work out a deal, and it’s the person that is going to be the one that has to do the work that is the one that is negotiating with you. That’s where you’re gonna get the best deals worked out, and that’s why the timing for plea negotiations is important. Of course, there are always exceptions in the law to every rule, but for that reason, if you’re dealing with a case, you’re gonna wanna talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances and get legal advice specific to your case.
To schedule a consultation with an Oklahoma criminal defense lawyer in my office, you can visit us online at makelaweasy.com. Don’t wait, take action and make informed decisions about your plea negotiations today.