Negotiating a Plea Agreement to Resolve Your California Domestic Violence Case

Legal News GavelPlea agreements can be a very helpful way to resolve your criminal case, including a case that involves domestic violence charges. A plea deal can help you maintain a degree of control and avoid the unpredictability of leaving your punishment up to the judge. A plea agreement may allow you to avoid jail and get a sentence that includes only probation. When that happens, you may potentially be entitled later to ask the court to terminate your probation early. All of these techniques work best when you have experienced California criminal defense counsel on your side, who are very familiar with both the law and the system.

The case of a woman named Reyna serves as a real-life example of how these processes work. Reyna was involved in a domestic dispute that eventually escalated to the point that Reyna used a weapon:  her car. The state eventually charged her with felony domestic violence in violation of Section 273.5 of the Penal Code and assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm. These charges were very serious and could have had a very serious impact on Reyna’s life, including a substantial period of incarceration.

Reyna and her legal counsel worked out a plea deal, however. In exchange for Reyna’s plea of guilty, the prosecution lowered the charges to assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm. As part of that plea arrangement, Reyna was sentenced to three years on probation.

A little more than a year later, Reyna filed a request with the court to lower the charges against her to a misdemeanor and to end her probation. This is an option that is available to certain defendants in certain circumstances. In Reyna’s situation, she had done everything required of her while on probation. She had successfully completed a 52-week domestic violence program, she had paid all of the sums that she owed to the court, and she had racked up zero probation violations.

The trial judge agreed to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor but did not terminate the probation. The court concluded that, even though Reyna had done everything she promised the court she’d do, it did not have the discretion to eliminate Reyna’s probation in this circumstance.

The appeals court overturned that ruling. According to that court, the trial judge was mistaken; he did have the authority to end Reyna’s probation. Trial courts generally have the discretion to end terms of probation early. That power is not taken away from a judge even when another statute calls for a mandatory minimum sentence of probation. The law (Section 1203.097) requires a minimum of 36 months of probation for defendants convicted of domestic violence offenses. However, when a defendant asks the court to terminate probation early, the court is following a different statute (Section 1203.3), which means that the judge still has discretion. That, in other words, means that a defendant can still request (and still receive) an order ending probation early, even if the crime was a domestic violence one.

Some of that may sound very technical, with “legalese” phrases and statutory section numbers. What you should know is that you have options available if you find yourself in a position like Reyna. The key is to retain capable counsel without delay, who can then use the system to help you pursue the right outcome for you. The San Francisco criminal defense lawyers at Uthman Law Office have been providing thoughtful strategies and effective representation to our domestic violence defense clients for many years. Attorney David Uthman has over 20 years of experience as a litigation attorney and almost a decade of experience as a police officer. Put our knowledge of the law and the system to work for you. Call us today at (415) 556-9200 to schedule your FREE initial consultation to get the help you need.

More blog posts:

Countering the Trial Strategies of the Prosecution in Your California Criminal Trial, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 23, 2018

What You Can (and Cannot) Be Ordered to Pay For as Part of Restitution in a California Domestic Violence Case, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, April 25, 2018