Because we offer free consultations, we often receive calls from people who already have an attorney who has negotiated a plea with the prosecutor. Unfortunately for both the defense attorney and their client – the client is not happy with the plea deal. These people often call us to see if we think the deal is good or not, and if we could do something differently. Like all things legal, it depends. Generally if you ask two criminal lawyers the same question, you will get two different answers. I would like to think that the Pinellas County criminal lawyers at Pawuk & Pawuk, would have done things differently and gotten you a better deal. But the purpose of this blog is to provide an explanation (not an excuse) as to some of the reasons why you might not be getting the deal you think that you deserve.
1. The State – or more specifically, the prosecutor assigned to your case. They are our first line of contact and if they are particularly overzealous prosecutors, do not like a particular defense attorney, or are looking for a promotion(whether in their own office or as some elected official) – they may offer higher penalties. In addition to whomever the prosecutor is – in order to reduce a charge to a lesser one, they almost always have to ask a supervisor. And there is no end to the politics or personalities that may be involved between a line prosecutor and their supervisor. Sometimes, you may get a reasonable prosecutor who agrees to a lesser charge or sentence – but the supervisors will not approve it. I can guarantee you that at Pawuk & Pawuk we make huge efforts to overcome any obstacles – political or otherwise – that we sometimes encounter with the State.
2. The Victim: Although the victim doesn’t have the ultimate say in the outcome of the case – they do have a lot of pull. For example, if the victim of a criminal mischief calls the State every week to check on the status of the case, shows up at every court hearing, and provides legitimate receipts for damages AND insists that you should be punished to fullest extent of the law – you probably will be. However, if the victim never appears at court hearings, and tells the prosecutor that they don’t care what happens in the case – the prosecutor then has more flexibility in a plea deal. Angry victims make for really bad plea negotiations. The absolute last thing any line prosecutor wants is for a victim to call their supervisor or worse yet the State Attorney himself, and complain.
3. Prior record: Criminal defense attorneys are not miracle workers. If you have been to prison three times in the last 10 years, chances are, you’re going back. If you have committed three petit thefts and had withholds of adjudication on all of them, you probably will not get a withhold of adjudication on any new petit theft charge. Unfortunately for everyone involved, a criminal defense attorney can not fix what happened in the past. I often hear that someone just plead to a crime because they wanted to get out of jail, or they were scared, or they just wanted to get it over with. Unfortunately, I can’t erase that past record. I can only try to minimize the impact of a prior record.
There may be many other reasons why you were not offered a better deal – if you think you should be – call me.