Articles Tagged with Plea deals

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-copy-300x224You have to be careful about accepting any kind of a plea. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Just ask Jussie Smollett. He may have gotten off with a slap on the wrist, but now the police department is suing him for money related to the investigation and the federal government still wants to press charges. The original sounded too good to be true, which outraged local politicians and law enforcement.

If you want to hear about an even worse deal, ask Terry Allen who was held behind bars for 32 years without ever being convicted or sentenced of a crime. Allen took was is known as a “civil commitment” plea deal in lieu of facing criminal charges on an alleged sexual assault. He was never sentenced to prison. He was never convicted of a crime. He spent 32 years behind bars.

Again, it sounded like a great deal. Allen was facing several years behind bars when prosecutors offered a plea in lieu of a criminal sentence to voluntarily submit himself to civil commitment. Civil commitment is held aside for those who are deemed a threat to themselves or others but also have serious mental illness. However, civil commitment allows for patients to be detained indefinitely pending the results of a psychiatric evaluation.

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225In one of the more disturbing criminal trials of late, Kamel Harris will stand trial for the murder and dismemberment of a 2-year-old boy. The boy’s remains were found in the Garfield Park Lagoon. While the prosecution had extended a plea deal to Harris, the family put a stop to it amid concerns that their child was not being served justice.

Many states throughout the U.S. have recently passed some variation of a Victim’s Rights legislation that gives individuals who have been harmed by a defendant or their families more say in how the case is prosecuted. Critics of the legislation noted that defendants have only been accused of crimes, not convicted of them. It remains unclear what sort of impact victim’s rights legislation (Marsy’s Law) will have on the ability of defendants to get fair criminal trials.

What are the Charges?

chris-liverani-552022-unsplash-copy-300x194Plea bargaining is an important part of the legal system. It is one of the most common, if not the most common way cases end. Not every case will end in front of a judge and a jury. A large number of them are dropped or end with a plea deal. So, what is a plea deal? A plea deal is an agreement between the prosecutor on the case and your criminal defense attorney. Let us take a look at plea bargaining and how it can help your situation.

Two Types of Plea Bargaining

There are two types of plea bargaining that attorneys talk about – charge bargaining and sentencing bargaining. Charge bargaining occurs when your attorney negotiates with the prosecutor to reduce the charges or drop some of them in exchange for your guilty plea to a different charge. Sentencing bargaining occurs when your attorney and the prosecutor negotiate a lighter sentence in exchange for you pleading guilty or no content to the charges levied against you.

sebastian-pichler-25154-copy-300x200At an arraignment, the crimes that you are charged with will be formally read aloud in court. In the Illinois Justice System, you will have this hearing no matter what degree of crime you were charged with (misdemeanor or felony). Here is what you should expect to happen at most standard arraignments.

The Basics

Arraignments should be held within a reasonable time frame, as dictated by the sixth amendment. If an arraignment is set for six months or more after the time of your arrest, your attorney may petition for dismissal.

A Waukegan woman was sentenced to 24 months of probation and six months intermittent imprisonment, to be served via electronic monitoring and home confinement, for her role in the kidnapping, beating and sexual assault of another woman. The defendant helped her cousin, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison, kidnap his ex-girlfriend, but was not involved in the sexual assault or beating. The defendant was initially charged with aggravated kidnaping, but the charge was reduced to kidnaping due to her testimony against her cousin.

Chicago Plea Agreement

This is a case where the prosecution and judge made the right call, and highlights the importance of having an effective and experienced criminal defense attorney.

The defendant admitted to participating in the kidnapping, although she had no idea when she and her cousin stopped at the victim’s home that the kidnapping would happen. In the case of kidnapping, the fact that she was unaware of her cousin’s intentions is irrelevant. Under Illinois law, a kidnapping occurs when a person “knowingly…carries another from one place to another with intent secretly to confine that other person against his or her will.” Once the victim was placed in the defendant’s car and she drove off, she committed the act of kidnapping, because she knew she was transporting the victim to another location against her will.

The judge in the case admonished the defendant for failing to contact police once she realized what was going on. In this situation, it is probably safe to assume that since the defendant had no idea her cousin intended to kidnap the victim, she was shocked that he was capable of not only kidnapping, but the subsequent beating and repeated sexual assaults. She likely feared for her safety, which caused her to assist in kidnapping the victim and prevented her from reporting the sexual assault to police during the 21 hours the assault occurred.

While that fear was insufficient to get the charges against her completely dropped, it was a sufficient mitigating factor that, when combined with her willingness to cooperate with the prosecution and testify against her cousin, was enough to get the charges against her reduced.

An experienced criminal defense attorney knows that a jury trial is not always the wisest option. Sometimes the circumstances of the case, coupled with the willingness of the prosecution to negotiate, necessitate accepting a plea agreement. Accepting a plea agreement should not be considered defeat. Plea agreements, when properly structured through skillful negotiation by an experienced criminal defense attorney, not only save the defendant the stress and uncertainty of trial, but usually result in minimal prison time.

In this case, the defendant only served five months in prison following her arrest. Although home confinement and electronic monitoring is no fun, it is a better outcome than a conviction for aggravated kidnapping, which can add up to 25 years to the regular 18 – 30 months imprisonment handed down for kidnapping. Continue reading

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