How far should a defendant fight a case? If no deal is offered, should the defendant take the case to trial?

Asked about 1 year ago - Alhambra, CA

I went with my friend to Van Nuys court to support him on a prostitution case. During that day I saw other men pleading no contest to prostitution charges; only one requested his case to go to trial. I noticed they all had the same PD. When they left the room I went out and talked to two of them. They told me that they had all been arrested the same night during a sting operation and had all gone to the pre-trial hoping for a deal, hoping for the DA to lower their charges to something like trespassing. Even though they were all first-time offenders, the DA refused to lower their charges. Their PD told them that if they went to trial and found guilty they could face jail time, so out of fear they plead no contest. The other guy, I was told, said to the PD he did not mind going to trial.

Attorney answers (9)

  1. Greg Thomas Hill

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . Good question. I do a lot of prostitution cases.

    Be careful with this. The court could be angry that your friend demands trial and, if obviously guilty, imposes upon the court a trial where he is convicted easily. Your friend may be seen as playing with the system. The maximum punishment on a first time case is six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine, plus penalties and assessments. The judge may impose punishment that is far heavier than the last plea bargain offered as a "trial tax" for refusing a reasonable offer.

    However, if your friend has a reasonable, good faith, bona fide defense to the charges, such as the discussion with the decoy about sex for money was ambiguous, take it to trial.

  2. Andrew Stephen Roberts

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . This is a very common charge in Van Nuys. Both defendants must do what is comfortable for them. Going to trial can possibly face some harsher consequences- and sometimes a different deal as the availability of courtrooms might become an issue.

    Andrew Roberts (818) 597-0633/ (805) 496-7777
  3. John David Laurie

    Pro

    Contributor Level 13

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    Answered . I understand both sides. Some clients just want to get something like this in their past. In order to give good advice one would need to speak with your friend and look at the police report. Also any discovery that was provided is also helpful. If this was a sting then entrapment may be a viable defense. Depends on the evidence. I find reviewing the evidence in criminal matters like these is helpful before talking deal, unless the client just wants to plea and be done with it.

    You do not always get the best deal at the first appearance. He may want to see a private attorney.

  4. Dan Eugene Chambers

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . Mr. Hill's comment is a good one. No judge likes to have court time wasted and the time of jurors wasted on a case withe no defense, notwithstanding a defendant's constitutional right to a jury trial. The punishment could end up being worse. But if a reasonable defense can be put on, then a trial might be required if the district attorney will not negotiate.

  5. Jesse Dameron Terrell

    Contributor Level 3

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    Best Answer
    chosen by asker

    Answered . If a defendant has even a colorable defense, and the funds to do so, I would almost always suggest going to trial. While a judge might be inclined to impose a harsher sentence on a defendant who insisted on trial when they had no basis for doing so, judges are reluctant to punish a defendant for exercising their constitutional right to a trial by their peers. When I was a prosecutor, every time I won a conviction at trial and it came time for sentencing, the judge would ask what the prosecution's last offer was. The judge would almost never imposed a harsher sentence than the last deal offered by the prosecutor. Based on this, there seems to me to be a lot of upside to taking a case to trial. That being said, if you take a case to trial and lose, a conviction will be entered for the crime charged rather than whatever pled down version the prosecution might have offered. This could pose a risk for people with certain jobs, licenses, etc.

  6. Brian Russell Michaels

    Contributor Level 16

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    Answered . Its a criminal case so jail is always a theoretical possibility. The reality is with good counsel these cases are beatable. If your friend has funds, PD's dont often want to go to trial and would rather just pleads people out.

    Brian Michaels
    Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

  7. Stephen Ross Cohen

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . Interestingly there is a diversion program for which he might be put in.

    If you are involved in a criminal law matter in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside or San Bernardino, California. Consider how much your freedom is worth. Other States have different Laws. Always, consult attorneys in your state!! Use Avvo’s tab “find a Lawyer” above.

    YOU HAVE ABSOLUTE RIGHTS TO COUNSEL, TO CONFRONT YOUR ACCUSERS
    TO REFUSE TO TESTIFY AGAINST YOURSELF,
    TO WITNESSES BEING SUBPEONED,
    ETC. GUARANTEED BY THE CONSTITUTION
    DO NOT WAIVE THEM, IF NECESSARY ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE ARRESTED. IN MY 40 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE 99% OF THE PERSONS WHO HAVE TALKED WITH THE POLICE HAVE HURT THEIR CASES!!
    WOULD YOU BET MONEY ON THOSE ODDS, WHY BET YOUR FREEDOM! POLICE ARE TRAINED IN INTERROGATION TECHNIGUES AND ALLOWED TO LIE, THEY ARE TALKING TO YOU TO GET EVIDENCE TO USE AGAINST YOU!!

    YOU CAN TALK TO YOUR ATTORNEY AND HIS STATEMENTS TO THE POLICE CAN NOT BE USED AGAINST YOU.

    In all legal matters, the court generally uses the reasoning of IRAC. I for issues, what are the facts and what remedies do you seek. R stands for rules and reasoning, what are the laws and what makes common sense. A is analysis how do the laws and common sense apply, C is conclusion, what are the arguments pro and con..

    If judges or juries do not accept your facts, that will change their judgments and each of them have differing biases. Each case is different. No lawyer can guarantee an outcome, at a hearing or trial other facts may come out.

    If you like my post, please mark it as “best” or “helpful”. I do not accept collect calls from inside jail or prisons; often they are listened to.

    My name is Stephen R. Cohen and have practiced since 1974. I practice in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA.... more
  8. Jeff Krigel

    Contributor Level 12

    13

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    Answered . This questions sums up criminal defense in a nutshell. Say you won't challenge the charges by blind pleading to the judge and getting the prosecutors recommendation. Your other option is to plea guilty and accept the deal straight from the prosecutor. It's a clever avoidance but still ends up with the same result.

  9. Kevin S. Vander Werff

    Pro

    Contributor Level 11

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    Answered . In my opinion, if there is no deal offered, you should go to trial. You have a constitutional right to confront your accusers, and the burden of proof lies with the state to prove your guilt. Keep in mind that your are presumed to be innocent.

    In my experience it is better to push the case to trial, make the state do their job, don't make it easy on them.

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