Is Going to Trial Your Only Option in Arizona?
As a defendant in a criminal case, you have the right to determine whether you’re going to go to trial or if an alternative will be pursued. Your criminal defense attorney will suggest the best course of action but the final decision is up to you.
In Arizona, a few alternatives to trial are possible. Very often, settlements and other possibilities will be pursued to speed things up and avoid the costly process of going to trial. Many criminal cases are resolved via plea bargains and deferred prosecution and here’s everything you need to know about these possibilities.
What Is Plea Bargaining?
The term refers to an agreement between the prosecution and the defense. In order to get a plea bargain, the defendant will have to plead guilty. The aim is to get a smaller sentence and to also get a guarantee from the prosecution that some leniency will be used.
Very often, the prosecution will agree to a smaller sentence in an attempt to conserve the resources that will otherwise be needed to prepare for trial.
A defense lawyer is not allowed to impose their judgment on a client. If a defendant does not want to plead guilty, a plea bargain would not be possible. In addition, the defendant should be provided with a detailed overview of the alternatives and their consequences before a decision is made.
Whenever a person refuses to plead guilty, the case will have to go to trial. Very often, decisions about plea bargaining have to be made without perfect information about the evidence or the likely consequences of each type of criminal proceeding. This is why the experience and knowledge of a criminal defense attorney matter. Such a legal representative can provide reliable suggestions, even when key information is missing.
In the case of deferred prosecution, the defendant does not have to plead guilty. Instead, a defendant agrees to join a special program aimed at obtaining either counseling or treatment.
The treatment acts as an alternative to prosecution in this situation. Upon the successful completion of the treatment program, the charges will be dismissed but if you drop out, the state will resume the prosecution process.
You have to understand the benefits and the eventual consequences you’ll face by entering a deferred prosecution program. If you agree to this option, you will waive your right to challenge the case. Motions to suppress evidence can no longer be filed and you will also be giving up the right to having a trial.
In exchange, the prosecution will be giving you a chance to have your charges dismissed. To determine if this option is in your best interest, you’ll need to acquaint yourself with the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement. Keep in mind that deferred prosecution agreements aren’t being offered that frequently in Arizona, which is why they may be a possibility worth considering.
As a defendant in a criminal case, you should definitely consider alternatives that are being offered to you. The type of crime, the sentence you’re facing and the evidence will all inform the choice that will give you the best possible outcome.
To make a good decision, you should be consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney throughout the process. Very often, defendants will not qualify for an alternative, but a lawyer can work with the prosecution to reduce the severity of the eventual consequences.
You should also understand what you’ll be getting yourself into. In the case of deferred prosecution, you will have to complete a treatment program. With plea bargaining, you’ll be acknowledging the crime and a record will be created. While it may seem lucrative to accept the conditions immediately and refrain from going to trial, this isn’t always going to be in your long-term best interest. If you’re looking for representation after trial look for help with the criminal appeals process.