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Plea Bargains

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If you are 18 years or older that have been charged with a crime in Colorado, you may wonder what to expect after getting arrested. You should be aware of key components of the Criminal Justice system and know how to make a decision on the type of plea bargains being offered.

You have various rights if you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Colorado. You should discuss your rights with an attorney to determine how you should plead in a case and what rights you do have. Some of your rights include the following:

  • You have the right to remain silent. This means you may refuse to answer questions from police officers and other officials regarding the event. Keep in mind, anything you say may be used against you in court.
  • You have the right to have a lawyer represent you. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may ask the judge to appoint one for you.
  • You have the right to a public and speedy trial, either by a jury or a judge only.
  • You are presumed innocent of any crime unless the district attorney presents sufficient evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • You are entitled to testify in your own defense if you want to, but you cannot be forced to testify.
  • You or your attorney may cross-examine any person who testifies against you.
  • When you are in court, you are allowed to bring in witnesses. The judge can order any person you want as a witness to appear in court.
  • If you are found guilty at trial, you have the right to appeal.
  • You have the right to make a statement or present additional information to the judge at the time of sentencing.

In addition to these rights, you will need to determine what type of plea to make. The following information discusses the types of pleas offered, the timing of the plea, and the implication the plea may have on other areas of your case.

Factors to Consider When Making A Decision About Plea Bargains

The Type of Bargain Offered

If the prosecution has a strong case, they may offer you a plea deal to avoid trial and exposure to a lengthy sentence. You may only plead guilty if you committed the crime, and you are admitting to doing so in court before a judge. By pleading guilty, you are indicating to the judge that you agree to be sentenced by the judge. Sometimes this may include a recommendation to not have an “enhanced sentence” such as additional prison time. The judge will ultimately decide what to sentence.

Charge Bargain or Sentence Bargain

Charge bargaining is an agreement where you would plead guilty to a lesser charge, so greater charges will be dropped.

  • For example, if you are charged with 3rd-degree assault (class 1 misdemeanor) and Harassment (class 3 misdemeanor), taking a charge bargain would mean you only plea guilty to the harassment charge and get the higher charge dropped.

Sentence bargaining is when you agree to plead guilty to a lesser sentencing option.

  • For example, in a first-time DUI case, the possible penalties can include serving up to a year of jail, but you could bargain to do probation only, instead of doing the year of jail.

Bargain in Exchange for a Deferred Sentence

A bargain for a deferred sentence is a plea bargain where you plead guilty to a criminal charge in a case, but a conviction does not enter right away. Instead, the court will wait to see if you do all of the things you agree to do as part of the deferred sentence such as complete probation, engage in alcohol and drug treatment, not commit any crimes for a certain period of time, or go to classes. If you complete all of the terms of your deferred sentence, the court will throw out a conviction and dismiss your case. If you do not successfully complete the terms of your agreement, the conviction can be entered permanently on your record without going to trial.

Bargain in Exchange for Cooperation

A bargain for a lesser sentence could be offered in exchange for cooperating with investigators or authorities in the case, but this type of bargain is rare. More often than not, the DA will ask you to give information BEFORE promising a plea bargain because they want to see how good your information is.

Diversion Program

In Colorado, Diversion Programs “provide a path out of the traditional criminal court processes of a plea, trial, conviction, and sentencing. Diversion holds people accountable for their actions and for repairing harm to victims of crime. Diversion seeks to reduce future criminal behavior and increase public safety. Diversion participants sign an agreement that lists what they must do or must not do for dismissal of the charges against them. Diversion may require participation in drug or alcohol treatment, recovery support, mental health, anger management or domestic violence offender treatment or restorative justice practices.” If you comply with their diversion agreements, charges are dismissed. Otherwise, prosecutors may pursue the charges against them.

When the Prosecutor Makes an Early Offer

There are various considerations when the prosecutor makes an early offer. You should discuss the scenarios below with an experienced attorney to determine whether the prosecution’s offer is reliable and beneficial in your case. Some considerations can include the following:

  • When the Offer Requires You to Plead Guilty to a More Serious Charge
  • When the Offer is Generous
  • When Other Defendants are Involved
  • When the Government’s Case is Built on Shaky or Unreliable Witnesses

Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

Making a plea is admitting guilt in your case. By admitting guilt, you could be opening yourself up to additional issues including the following:

  • Immigration Consequences
  • Employment Consequences
  • Suspension or Revocation of Driving Privileges
  • Other Negative Consequences

Other Factors to Consider

When you meet with one of our highly experienced attorneys, we will discuss the following issues.

  • Potential Advantages to the Bargain – we will discuss the various types of bargains listed above and review the benefits or potential implications they may have on your case.
  • Honest Self-Assessment – as you take time to evaluate your specific situation, we will ask you to conduct a self-assessment that includes how your case may go in a trial setting.
  • The Advice of Family and Loved Ones – you may have received advice from loved ones, we will discuss their input and how it impacts your case.

Entering Your Plea: How Does It Work?

  • Before the Hearing – a prosecutor will present a plea offer to you and your attorney. You can discuss the plea with your attorney before determining how to proceed.
  • At the Hearing – the judge will hear your plea and have the opportunity to accept or reject your plea.

Withdrawing Your Plea

Normally when you enter a plea it is final. Most Judges will ask you if you wish to enter a final plea to ensure you do not try to take it back, and most plea agreements require you to sign a waiver stating that you will not try to withdraw your plea later. There are very few times, however, when you are able to withdraw your plea.

  • Before Sentencing – Colorado allows you to make a motion to withdraw your guilty plea before your sentence is imposed. The court has the full discretion to grant or deny this motion. You must show a fair and just reason for making the change. You can’t make a plea just because you think the prosecution’s case is not as strong as you thought.
  • After Sentencing – A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty or of nolo contendere may be made only before sentence is imposed or imposition of sentence is suspended. There are some exceptions that you should discuss with an experienced attorney.

Don’t Let One Wrong Decision Impact Your Life, Job or Freedom.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are plea bargains a good idea?

Whether or not it is a good idea to accept a plea bargain entirely depends on the details of the particular case. If you did commit the crime you were charged with, and if your attorney believes the prosecution has a strong case against you, a plea bargain might be an excellent way to lessen the charges against you, and as such lessen the potential penalties. NEVER accept a plea bargain before speaking with an attorney, however, in order to make sure it is a good decision for you.

What is the downside of plea bargains?

There are several possible downsides to accepting a plea bargain, depending on the details of your particular case. Accepting a plea bargain means that you are admitting guilt, which can have a long-lasting impact on employment, housing, and other future prospects.

Does everyone get offered a plea bargain?

Not everyone receives the offer of a plea bargain when they are arrested for a crime. Many people do get this offer though, particularly when the prosecution has very solid evidence and they know the defendant is likely to accept the plea in order to lessen their charges.

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