The Criminal Defense Law Center of
West Michigan

We have mastered the art of the plea deal.

Plea Deal

A Catholic schools tutor is facing a decade or more in state prison for criminal sexual conduct with a 15-year-old boy could have taken a plea deal that would have resulted in her spending less than a year in jail.

Abigail Simon awaits sentencing next month.

The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office offered Simon a plea deal agreement that would end the case and allow her to spend less than a year in jail.

Chief Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker offered Simon the chance to plead guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct.  It carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

As part of the plea deal, Simon would be offered a sentence cap of one year in the Kent County Jail.  Jail sentences include time off for good behavior and therefore Simon would have been out in less than a year.

But Simon did not take the plea deal leading to the preliminary hearing where her attorney argued his client was the victim.

Simon was bound over to Kent County Circuit Court on multiple counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

After this the prosecutor’s office made a plea deal offer that called for Simon to plead guilty to accosting a child for immoral purposes and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration. Those charges would have carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Had she taken that plea deal, her sentencing guidelines would have called for a minimum sentence starting at only five months with a maximum minimum sentence of 23 months.  Since Simon had no prior record, she would have likely been out of jail in less than a year.

Simon’s attorney has received criticism both from the legal community and commenters online. He says he put his heart and soul into the defense, which he concedes at times became personal.

An attorney should never make a case person and this was a big mistake by Simon’s attorney.  Simon’s attorney had to know his client was going to be found guilty at trial and he should have skillfully guided her into taking a plea deal.

Simon wasted tens of thousands of dollars paying her lawyer’s bloated fee and was still found guilty. Thousands of dollars wasted and her precious freedom lost.  If you want a law firm that knows how to get results, call The Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan today at 616-438-6719.

What is a Plea Deal?

A plea deal is an agreement reached between the prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney. After the defendant agrees to plea guilty or no contest to a charge, the prosecutor will agree to drop other charges, reduce the charge to a much less serious offense or ask the new for a specific sentence. In many cases, the sentence is to recommend no jail or jail time instead of prison. 

A plea deal should only happen after you and your attorney do a very careful analysis of the risk vs the reward. Your attorney can do this risk assessment after closely examining all the facts in your case. Your attorney should also give you an assessment how good your chances are of winning your case as trial. 

If your attorney came up to you and told you that your murder charge was dropped down to a misdemeanor, it would be extremely unwise to risk taking the case to trial and losing. A person charged with a crime has a constitutional right to go to trial. However, as a Criminal Defense lawyer, I must clearly explain to my clients why a plea deal maybe in their best interest.  My law firm has handled cases that have gone to trial on cases that were both felonies and misdemeanors. We know how risky jury trials can be. Our system is supposed to be based on “innocent until proven guilty,” but we know many innocent people lose at trial and many innocent people plea guilty to lesser charges instead of risking a conviction on more serious charges. 

I have been doing criminal defense work for a long time. I know that the system does not work the way it was it was supposed to work. The system can be unfair. Because the system is not always fair, taking a case to trial always involves risk. If you want the right outcome at a jury trial, you need a good jury and good facts.

Prosecutors Want Plea Deals

Far too many prosecutors overcharge defendants because they want to get a plea deal. A lot of good prosecutors do not do this and I have a great working relationship with many fair-minded prosecutors. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted that when prosecutors overcharge a defendant, that it was a morally wrong act by the prosecutor. A classic example of this is when I represent someone who assaulted someone but gets charged with felonious assault to induce a plea. The overcharging was immoral. A good defense lawyer will want to get you out of the system as quickly as possible with he best results possible. This means that in many cases taking a plea is our client’s best option.  This is one of the reasons why only 3% of criminal cases actually go to trial.

I do not want to discourage anyone form going to trial. My office does not push clients to take plea deal that are not in their best interest and we will take cases to trial. However, I always ask clients to proceed with caution when they tell me they want nothing but a jury trial. Good lawyers will work hard to figure out if there is a way to solve your case without a trial. A trial should be the legal issue of last result. Great lawyers can get a case resolved by motions, preliminary examinations, hearings and plea negotiations. There are cases where we can get great results that keep a conviction off of our client’s record. Think about that! If we can get you an offer that keeps a conviction off of your record without having to win at trial, why not do that? The reward for this scenario is far greater than rolling the dice at trial.

A plea deal is thus a resolution that is reached by the defense attorney and prosecutor compromising. There is no risk of the unknown in the equation anymore. As a defense attorney, I know all my clients want all their charges dismissed. I also know that a prosecutor would like a conviction on all charges. Plea deals avoid the extremes of both sides. In many cases, both sides are at least satisfied with the deal.

Steps Your Lawyer Needs To Take To Master Negotiation

Establish Good Relationships With Prosecutors

Any defense attorney worth his/her salt wants to have a positive working relationship with the prosecutor. Please don’t take this to mean your lawyer is working for the prosecutor. Your attorney is working for you. I always work for my clients. When parties have a good relationship, there is a level of trust. I have used this trust with local prosecutors to get better deals with my clients. The other side knows I am not coming at them in bad faith.

Do Not Hire An Attorney Who Tries To Force Their Will On The Other Side

Smart lawyers will not engage in actions that are considered manipulative against the prosecution. Prosecutors know when a person is being manipulative of honest.

Be Professional

I always act professional when dealing with prosecutors. Criminal cases are serious, and this isn’t the time to be joking around. If the prosecutor makes a great offer out the gate, I will not insult them by asking for a better plea deal that has no chance of happening. If they prosecutor is dropping a five-year felony charge down to a 93-day misdemeanor, I am not asking them to drop all charges when my client is clearly guilty of a crime.

If you have any questions regarding plea deals and if you should take a plea deal, please call my today at 616-438-6719. The call is free, and I will be happy to help you out.  

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