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Ethics in predicting a plea negotiation?

Palo Alto, CA |

My attorney is telling me that the judge has requested my appearance in court at the next hearing so that we can settle the case. He is supposed to talk to the DA between now and then and work it out. He told me what he intends to negotiate. He said he cannot ethically guarantee me anythong but he is confident.
I live out of state..charged with felony 487 under $2, 050. I have one prior conviction of the same charge from 6 years ago. Same county, no jail time, probation and community service completed flawlessly. He said he wants to negotiate a drop to a misdemeanor in exchange for some sort of restitution, fine and arrange community service for me in my state.
Considering my 1 prior is that a reasonable deal that can be worked out? If he says he is confident does that mean he knows ?

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Attorney answers 4

Posted

It's impossible for any lawyer to predict the outcome of plea negotiations... especially a stranger on the Internet who only knows what you've posted.

What does "confident" mean? Ask your attorney exactly what he means.

If I was the one saying it (and I'm not), it would mean, "Based on my experience with this particular DA and judge, I think there's a pretty strong chance that we can get the case resolved this way; however, I can't guarantee that it will work out that way."

Of course, it isn't helpful that you committed the same crime again, six months later. Your attorney knows all about you, and may have some evidence that you've turned your life around this time.

PLEASE READ BEFORE CONTACTING MY OFFICE: My office is located in Chico, Butte County, California. I offer free consultations to potential clients whose cases are in counties within a 100 mile radius of my office. In order to represent someone who lives outside that area, I would have to charge enough to pay for several hours of travel time to each court appearance. If you're outside that area, it will be more cost-efficient to hire an attorney who practices in your community. I do not accept telephone calls regarding my posts on Avvo. If you need more information, please use the "comments" button or post another question. This is a general discussion of legal principles by a California lawyer and does not create an attorney/client relationship. It's impossible to give detailed, accurate advice based on a few sentences on a website (and you shouldn't provide too much specific information about your legal matter on a public forum like this site, anyway). You should always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction who can give you an informed opinion after reviewing all of the relevant information.

Asker

Posted

I meant 6 years later. Sorry, and thank you.

Robert Lee Marshall

Robert Lee Marshall

Posted

Nope, it was my typo. You wrote "six years" in your question and I wrote "six months" in my answer. No need to apologize. My bad.

Asker

Posted

Can a sentence be enhanced based on a single prior years later? Thanks again!

Robert Lee Marshall

Robert Lee Marshall

Posted

No, but the DA and judge may consider your record when they try to decide what's a fair disposition of the case. California Penal Code §666, petty theft with a prior, used to elevate petty theft to a felony after just one qualifying conviction. (You're charged with 487, grand theft, so that wouldn't really make a difference in this case.) Charges like theft, embezzlement, auto theft, and receiving stolen property can all qualify as priors if the defendant served at least one day in jail. (Even a "book and release," where you go to the jail to be fingerprinted and photographed, counts as a day in jail, even though it only takes an hour or two.) As part of recent legislation to reduce prison overcrowding, Penal Code §666 was amended to require THREE qualifying priors. (It still takes just one if the defendant has a prior conviction for a serious or violent "strike" prior, or is required to register as a sex offender.)

Posted

Attorneys cannot ethically (or practically) guarantee an outcome in any criminal case, whether in terms of settlement or outcome a trial. Based on the facts presented here, it sounds like the attorney has done exactly what he should in terms of negotiating a settlement to a lesser offense, not making any guarantees, and advising the client of the likely outcome based on his familiarity with the court and prosecutor.

The author provides answers on this site based on hypothetical questions and fact patterns. The answers provided are for general educational and informational purposes only, and they do not constitute legal advice, which would require a personal consultation and representation agreement. Questions and answers on this site do not create an attorney-client relationship, and the communications are not privileged. Any citizen with a legal issue should consult personally with an attorney and should rely only on legal advice provided in a formal attorney-client relationship.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your time and answer!

William Jordan Steed III

William Jordan Steed III

Posted

You're welcome!

Posted

Absolutely not. It does not mean he "knows." A prediction or goal setting in plea bargaining is based upon an understanding of the facts of the case, the profile of the offender, the experience of the attorney and an understanding of the "atmospherics" of the case and county. From 3000 miles away, it sounds to me like he is too optimistic but let's all hope he's right.

As an aside, you might want to focus on a new hobby. It doesn't appear you have a lot of talent for undetected criminal activity.

Good Luck to you. Hope it works out.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your time. I guess since my attorney knows everything about my case he is aware that sometimes not everything is as it seems, and neither of these occasions were part of a hobby. I appreciate the comedy in your answer..I guess he may just have a different way of approaching clients. I prefer optimistic approaches over negative. Thanks again..

Anthony Bettencourt Cameron

Anthony Bettencourt Cameron

Posted

It could be he's reading you that way. Criminal defense attorney, from cross examining and preparing witnesses, are often good at "reading" people. Surely wish you the best.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your time.

Posted

First of all I am not a California Attorney. Your attorney has an obligation to be truthful with you at all times and to keep you informed of all significant developments in your case. If he is following the rules than he does not know what the outcome of your case will be and you should take him on his word.
As to whether or not the contemplated outcome is possible given your record, only a foolish attorney would get your hopes up only to have them dashed in court after traveling form such a distance.
Trust your attorney—if you don’t, hire a new attorney who you trust.

Asker

Posted

So, you are saying that he probably already knows this is the possible outcome or he wouldn't have conveyed it..so I should trust him? Lol I believe that is what you are telling me...

Andrew John Cates

Andrew John Cates

Posted

Exactly. Looks like attorney speak almost got in the way of the message. Good luck :)

Asker

Posted

Awesome! Thanks for confirming that for me. That attorney speak gets me every time. :) appreciate your time!

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