Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

How Do I Plea Bargain On My Own In First Offense Domestic Assault And Battery?

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

The first thing you should do if you’re going to try to plea bargain on your own without the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney is to understand that you’re not going to get the best deal. One of the smartest things that someone can do, if they’re going to represent themselves, is offered jail time upfront. Now, this is the first offense scenario, so why would I be suggesting that they offer jail time when they’ve never been in trouble before? It’s simply because the reality is that the state attorney is going to follow office policy for dealing with unrepresented people and they’re going to try and cut a deal on that first court date called Arraignment.

The deal that they are authorized to cut is not the best deal possible. Generally speaking, if someone offers jail time upfront and they are willing to do 30, 60, 90 days, then they eliminate a lot of problems that can follow with probationary sentences. Here, on a first offense domestic assault or domestic battery charge, it’s critical to have a lawyer if a person values such things as their firearm rights. When someone enters a plea, if they are even sentenced to probation, they can never own a firearm again and the charge can never be sealed or expunged from their record. The prosecutor will try and sell this by saying that its adjudication withheld, which means that the person will not have a conviction for domestic violence assault or domestic violence battery.

While that is literally true, what they conveniently do not tell people is that they will have un-expungable criminal history that will haunt them for the rest of their lives and that although adjudication withheld does mean that they are not convicted under this area of law, other areas of the law pulled that adjudication withheld is a conviction. So this means someone will not be able to work in certain jobs especially if they involved firearms and every time a background check, it’s going to flag as a domestic abuser. So someone can represent themselves on a case like this and offered jail time upfront, they can try and negotiate a probationary sentence but they need to know they’re not going to get the best deal possible. I’ve handled thousands of domestics in a career over 27 years and I can’t recall the last time one of my clients even got probation.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll get the next case dismissed but virtually all domestic violence cases I handle end up being dismissed in one way, shape, form or fashion, whether it’s by negotiated dismissal and we try to avoid diversion programs like bubonic plague. They are very bad for people, they’re very bad deal. When we cannot get a negotiated dismissal, sometimes we need to go to trial or do other strategies but this is something that someone should really think twice about self-representation on a domestic violence case.

Will I Be Arrested Or Given A Notice To Appear In Okaloosa County Pre-Trial Diversion Violation?

It depends on how someone entered pre-trial diversion. This is why I often say that pre-trial diversion is the illusion of a good deal when it’s a really bad deal. In many counties, including Okaloosa, there are times where in order to enter pre-trial diversion, the state attorney sets the person up to be violated. How do they do this? First, they make them sign an open-ended plea agreement with up to the maximum sentence permitted by law. Then, they tell the person quite truthfully that the plea will be set aside, so the no contest plea is set aside and then that person enters into some form of pre-trial intervention or pre-trial diversion. The problem is should they violate even the most minor things such as being $5 late on a payment for something or missing a class for batterer’s intervention program, which is almost always required in domestic cases, that person, for example, will find themselves in a situation where they go directly to sentencing.

In other words, the way it should work is if someone does not complete diversion, they should go back to the beginning of the stages where they can go to trial if they want to. However, in Okaloosa County, most of the time, what will happen is that the case will be set for sentencing and the person will not usually be arrested unless there is a new law violation and they’ll usually be given a notice to appear. However, that next court date is going to be for sentencing and at that time, that plea agreement with open-ended sentencing becomes active and the person involved is subject to up to the maximum period of incarceration permitted by law. Negotiating dismissals by contract such as a deferred prosecution agreement or diversion or some other type of negotiated dismissal, that’s something that you really should leave to the experts. People like myself who are certified criminal law specialists who know all of these hidden landmines in the minefield that we call Florida Criminal Law.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on Plea Bargaining On Your Own, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 423-0035 today.

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About the Author

Attorney Stephen G. Cobb provides personalized representation for Criminal Defense Cases in FL.