Please See Below for a Transcript of the Video
Hi, I’m Richard Waring and I’m a criminal defense attorney in Charleston, SC. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, possession of marijuana or cocaine, trafficking, or possession with intent to distribute (PWID), you might have asked yourself, “is the prosecutor going to offer me a deal on my criminal case in South Carolina?”
The answer to that question will be determined by a multitude of factors. So, let’s jump right in. Probably the first thing the prosecutor will look at when they open your file for the first time will be what the charges are against you. If you’ve been charged with some very minor misdemeanor, that could go to your benefit; however, if you’ve been charged with a serious felony, automatically the prosecutor may look at your case from the standpoint that you’ve been alleged to have done something serious.
The prosecutor will then most likely read the facts of the case. In other words, he or she will read what you’re alleged to have done. If the allegations are not bad, that could go to your benefit, but if the allegations are very bad, that will probably cut against you. For example, if you merely have been alleged to have shoplifted something of little value or had a little bit of marijuana in your pocket, the prosecutor may be more willing to make a deal. But, if you robbed someone, beat them up badly or shot them, or broke into someone’s house at night and stole everything in the house and/or hurt the homeowners of that house, you might not be getting much of a deal.
Another scenario that could come up is if you are charged with a more minor offense, but you are alleged to have committed the crime in a more egregious or serious manner. For example, if you’re charged with Failure to Stop for Blue Lights (that’s when the cops try to pull you over in your vehicle but you don’t stop and keep driving away). If you’re charged with that crime but you only went a fairly short distance when you weren’t pulling over for the police and otherwise weren’t going 100 miles per hour, that could make the prosecutor more willing to work something out.
Now, take that last scenario but this time you take the police on a high speed chase going 105 miles per hour for 20 miles across town, running red lights, crashing into other vehicles and almost running pedestrians over. In this last scenario, I wouldn’t expect the prosecutor to want to help you out too much.
The prosecutor is also going to look at your RAP sheet (aka your criminal history). If you’ve got nothing on your record, that’s generally a good thing for you. If you’ve been charged with a very minor offense or even a non-violent felony and you’ve got no criminal history, the prosecutor may be willing to offer you some kind of diversionary program such as PTI or conditional discharge, or simply just be willing to reduce your charges.
However, even if you do have no criminal history but you are alleged to have committed a very serious crime, the prosecutor may or may not be willing to offer a deal or not. For example, if you have no criminal history but then you get charged with killing someone or robbing someone at gunpoint, what the prosecutor ultimately offers you might not be anything you want, but it might be a deal nevertheless, albeit a harsh deal. So, if you’ve been charged with armed robbery, which carries 10-30 years, but you have no record, the prosecutor may be willing to offer you the minimum 10 years, or they may even allow you to plead to a lesser robbery for a lesser term of prison. It’s not unheard of for a prosecutor to offer a YOA (Youthful Offender Sentence) on an armed robbery, but usually that probably won’t happen absent extenuating circumstances.
Another thing that could factor into the prosecutor’s decision of whether to offer you a deal is whether your arresting officer has an opinion, one way or the other on the case. If it’s a relatively minor case and you were respectful to the cop, maybe they’ll tell the prosecutor, they’re fine with a deal. Alternatively, if you gave the cop a hard time or it’s an otherwise pretty serious case, the cop may want you to not be offered any deals at all.
One major consideration the prosecutor will consider is how strong the case is. If the case doesn’t have much evidence that proves you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then he or she may be a lot more willing to offer you a deal. But, if you’re alleged to have committed a really serious crime such as armed robbery, attempted murder, or murder, the prosecutor may be willing to go to trial on the case even if it’s not necessarily a really strong case, and therefore he or she might not be very interested in offering you much of a deal.
If evidence gets lost or if some police procedures weren’t done 100% properly, the prosecutor may be more willing to offer a deal. For example, if you confessed to the crime but the video of your confession gets lost, they might be more willing to offer you a deal.
If the case involves a victim, their opinion could pull some decent weight with the prosecutor. If the crime you’ve been charged with is really serious such as an attempted murder, and the victim wants you to be punished, that could mean the prosecutor is less likely to give you a deal or a deal that you want. If the victim doesn’t care or is uncooperative, then maybe the prosecutor is more likely to help you out. Keep in mind that if the case is very serious, the prosecutor may decide to not offer you much of a deal anyway and proceed to trial regardless. There were quite a few instances when I was a prosecutor where a victim didn’t want to cooperate, but we went to trial regardless because the facts of the case were bad enough.
In addition, if you get a prosecutor on your case who is known as a hard-nosed trial attorney, they may be willing to go to trial on a more serious case even if there are some issues with the case. Those kinds of prosecutors may also give out less of a plea offer on your case if the allegations against you are very serious and/or you’ve got a lengthy criminal history.
Lastly, one other consideration (and this list is not exhaustive) that could play a role in whether the prosecutor makes a deal is how good your criminal defense attorney is. And, what I mean by this is not necessarily how good they are in trial (that’s a whole different issue). I mean how good they are on the front end in convincing the prosecutor that a plea deal or plea offer is warranted on your case.
A good criminal defense attorney is not going to wait until the last minute to dig into the discovery materials on your case (that’s all of the documentation, police reports, body cameras, evidence, etc.). They’re going to look through all of that material on the front end, find weaknesses in the case, and present them to the prosecutor and try to convince them why they should give you a deal. That’s where you want to make sure your attorney knows what they’re doing.
When I was a prosecutor for Charleston county, I always appreciated when defense attorneys took the time on the front end to really look into the case because when they would come to me and point out significant weaknesses in my cases, sometimes that did in fact cause me to either make a good deal on the case, or sometimes even dismiss the case. That’s what you want in a criminal defense attorney. Someone who will zealously advocate for you.
Alright, that’s it for now on this topic. I hope you’ve learned a little bit about what considerations will go into the prosecutor’s mind when thinking about whether to offer you a deal.
And, if you’re in the Charleston, SC area or Lowcountry of South Carolina, feel free to give me a call anytime and we can discuss the details of your burglary, trafficking, DUI, or possession of marijuana. Having prosecuted thousands of criminal cases, I have experience on both sides of the criminal justice system, and would be happy to take a look at your case. Best of luck.
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