The mission of an defense lawyer is to protect the rights of the accused during the criminal justice process and to work diligently for the best possible outcome to the case. This means that the attorney must carefully evaluate the evidence and the circumstances of the charge to create a defense strategy tailored specifically for each unique case.
In some situations, a criminal lawyer will petition for a dismissal of charges. In others, the best strategy is to aggressively defend the innocence of the client at trial, working for an acquittal and a verdict of not guilty.
For some cases, however, the best outcome will not come through exoneration or dismissal. Rather, the evidence is such that a guilty verdict is quite likely--almost certain, in fact. In these cases, the best defense option may be to negotiate a plea agreement with prosecutors. A plea agreement or plea bargain is a legal transaction in which the defendant pleads guilty to the original charge or pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for some type of incentive, generally a reduced sentence.
Incentives for negotiating a plea arrangement include:
- Reduction in the number of charges against the defendant
- Reduction in the severity of the charges faced by the defendant
- Reduction in the sentence
- Avoidance of prolonged justice process and drawn out trial
In other words, a client accused of a felony may be able to plea guilty to a lesser, but related, misdemeanor charge, limiting jail time and avoiding legal restrictions placed on a convicted felon (for example, the right to own firearms).
Misdemeanor charges can also be reduced. A first offense DUI charge may be negotiated to a reckless driving plea. In some cases, a plea of guilt or no contest allows the defendant to be sentenced to time served, effectively allowing his or her freedom at the end of trial instead of a prolonged jail or prison sentence.
Other benefits of a plea bargain include less stigma associated with the criminal record, in the number of convictions or severity of convictions; limiting the expenses associated with trial; fewer hassles; avoiding the publicity of a trial; preventing the implication of others; and resolving the matter quickly.
It is important to remember that the judge has the right to reject the plea agreement, but generally, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers in Oklahoma will work to reach an outcome that will be acceptable by all parties, including the judge presiding over the case.
For the best result, the defendant will want to work with a defense attorney who is a skilled negotiator. In any case, it is imperative that the Oklahoma criminal lawyer and his or her client have an open line of communication to discuss the best defense strategy, whether that defense involves the assertion of the defendant's innocence or a plea bargain for minimal impact upon conviction.