Plea Deal Used as an Appeal Strategy
Practicing the law is part science and part art. An experienced trial lawyer knows how to balance the two. A good criminal defense trial attorney will prepare the case so his client has as many options as possible. A recent Lexington case involved a DUI in which the driver ran into a police detective and another person. Both victims were killed. During the course of a complicated negotiation, the defense attorney used a plea deal as an appeal strategy.
In this particular case, the police sought and obtained documentation to perform a blood draw to test the alcohol level of the driver. The driver’s defense attorney argued that the documentation was incorrect and wasn’t the proper type required. Therefore, the evidence obtained should be thrown out. The judge disagreed with the claim.
However, as I commented at the beginning, I always look at the overall picture to see how I can continue fighting for my clients. In this particular case, a plea deal was arranged. The key here is that it allows the attorney defending the driver to appeal the case. Specifically, the attorney can re-argue that the documentation was invalid, thus the evidence was improperly gathered.
If the attorney prevails, this vital piece of evidence (the results of the blood test) may be thrown out. It’s entirely likely that this is such an important piece of evidence that the prosecution will have to change its approach. It could even limit the sentence the driver will ultimately receive.
What’s a Plea Deal?
In its most simple terms, a plea deal (normally called a “plea bargain”) is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor. Either side can start the discussion. Plea bargains are often used to reduce a charge or to gain an advantage. Another advantage is that a plea deal can avoid leaving the outcome to chance when it goes before the jury or judge for a final decision.
In the above case, the defendant’s attorney effectively used a plea bargain to preserve the right to appeal the blood test. It may look like the defense the lost the battle, but he may still win the war. If a short-term set back can enable the defendant’s attorney to keep fighting, the case can still be won. Exactly what that “win” is will be determined by the realities of the case.
I’ve had cases in which the evidence was the key foundation of the prosecution’s case. Without the evidence, the entire case crumbled and I was able to do what I do in trial. My client’s charges were dropped.
This doesn’t always happen, but an experienced criminal defense attorney only needs a small opening to enable him/her to begin dismantling the case against his/her client. If it means a plea deal used as an appeal strategy, I’ll discuss it with my client and prepare to fight another day.