Many criminal cases are resolved before trial, especially when a defendant takes the opportunity to hire a defense attorney early on. The sooner that you have an attorney working on your case, the better chance you stand of having your case dismissed or the charges reduced. This is why:
Some cases can be dismissed during pre-arraignment meetings.
One of the best opportunities for an attorney to handle a case early and get the charges dismissed or reduced is during the pre-arraignment meeting. This is because prosecutors don't have a lot of time invested in the case and they often have only given the evidence a cursory examination.
Your attorney can take this time to confer with the judge and the prosecutor and point out weak spots in the evidence that might make prosecuting the case difficult. For example, if you were charged with a crime based on the statement of an eyewitness who was drinking at the time, that sort of identification might not hold much value in court.
Alternately, your attorney may suggest that it's in the best interest of justice not to prosecute you. For example, if you are charged with making violent threats but it has since been discovered that you were suffering from an undiagnosed mental condition that made you paranoid, your attorney may get the prosecutor and judge to agree that there's no reason to prosecute you now that you've gotten treatment.
Other cases can benefit from early plea bargaining.
If your attorney can't get the charges dismissed, he or she can still propose a plea agreement that will both serve the interests of justice and keep you out of court.
For example, your attorney may decide to try to bargain for a reduced charge. If that happens, you'll be given the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser offense. For example, you may be able to plead a felony "intent to distribute" drug charge down to a misdemeanor possession charge because there's simply no real evidence, other than the quantity of the drugs in your possession, that you were selling drugs instead of just using them. This is known as charge bargaining.
Alternately, if the evidence against you is fairly strong, your attorney may try to get you a reduced sentence in exchange for your guilty plea. This is known as sentence bargaining. Your guilty plea allows the prosecution to skip the time and expense of a trial. In exchange, you may be able to get off with a fine and probation for many first offenses or the minimum possible sentence prescribed by law. For example, if you're charged with burglary and the minimum sentence is six months in jail and the maximum is three years in prison, you may be able to plead guilty in exchange for a guarantee that you'll only serve six months.
If you wait until further along in the process to hire an attorney, the prosecution will have invested more time and money into prosecuting you, which may make him or her less inclined to dismiss or reduce the charges. For more information about criminal law, contact a firm such as the Law Offices Of Jerald Silvia.
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