Plea

Cidu Bill on May 15th 2017

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Part of his agreement with whom, exactly? And why?

Filed in Bill Bickel, CIDU, Dave Coverly, Speed Bump, comic strips, comics, humor | 25 responses so far

25 Responses to “Plea”

  1. James Pollock May 15th 2017 at 02:01 am 1

    Plea agreements are made between the defendant (represented by the defense lawyer) and the government (represented by the prosecutor).

    In this case, advertising for “Ron” was part of the agreement between the defense lawyer and the prosecutor.

    The government gets to save the expense of a trial, but has to cough up for a “custom” inmate number. They’re probably still ahead.

  2. Stan May 15th 2017 at 02:10 am 2

    “The government gets to save the expense of a trial, but has to cough up for a “custom” inmate number…”

    …for Ron, the lawyer. So, it’s a deal between the two of them. However, the convict says ‘my’ plea agreement, not ‘their’ plea agreement. Is this not where the confusion lies? The convict hasn’t made a deal with anyone.

  3. Minor Annoyance May 15th 2017 at 02:50 am 3

    I dunno. Why would a lawyer want to advertise on the back of a client who went to prison? Not exactly a glowing testimonial to the quality of representation.

    Maybe: “It was part of the plea agreement. Turns out the guy I robbed sells insurance.”

    Or: “Another thing about these for-profit prisons. If you’re an escape risk, they sell ad space on you.”

    Or: “Ron was the lawyer who plea bargained for me. Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend him.”

  4. James Pollock May 15th 2017 at 03:02 am 4

    “The convict hasn’t made a deal with anyone.”
    He’s one of the two parties that has.
    The defense lawyer gets the best deal available for the defendant… but always gets paid. It’s actually unethical and illegal for a lawyer to take a criminal defense case on contingency.

    “I dunno. Why would a lawyer want to advertise on the back of a client who went to prison? Not exactly a glowing testimonial to the quality of representation.”

    You advertise where your customers can be found. Ever notice that the ads that air during football games are different from ads that run during Shonda Rhimes’ shows? That the ads that run during daytime TV, the ads that run in the evening, the ads in primetime, and the late-night ads are all different?

  5. Brent May 15th 2017 at 03:18 am 5

    @Stan (2): The plea is the convict’s… thus “my plea”.

    @Minor Annoyance (3): You’re assuming it was a bad agreement. It would seem more likely in this case that he got much less than the expected amount of time for whatever he did… that’s a good outcome if your guilty and they got you dead to rights.

  6. Stan May 15th 2017 at 03:34 am 6

    “The plea is the convict’s… thus “my plea”.”

    Yes, I’m aware…but the problem is “what plea”? He doesn’t seem to have made a deal with anyone.

    “The defense lawyer gets the best deal available for the defendant… but always gets paid.”

    I’m still a little confused by your answers, James. In the scenario you’ve laid out, isn’t it the corrections institute ‘paying’ the lawyer by allowing him to advertise on the back of the convict in lieu of an expensive trial? How is this the best deal for the defendant? What’s he getting out of it?

    Do you mean that the convict seems to have been left out of the negotiations all together? Is that the joke? That seems to have some sense to it, if that’s what you meant.

  7. Brent May 15th 2017 at 05:31 am 7

    We know he made a deal, it says so right in the comic… advertising is part of the agreement for his plea, and as additional confirmation there it is right on his back so the deal clearly was agreed to. That’s a very odd stipulation, and it suggests that this Ron is such a talented lawyer that he got the prosecution into a position where they’d take that. That’s where the humour is… it’s pretty ludicrous.

  8. Olivier May 15th 2017 at 06:24 am 8

    Sometimes, when you have work done by a contractor on your house, you can get a rebate if you let them put up a billboard advertising for their company in your front yard. This is what would happen if lawyers were to do the same. I don’t think we have to take “plea agreement” literally, any other law-related term involving the hiring of a lawyer would work as well.

  9. billytheskink May 15th 2017 at 09:35 am 9

    I found this strip mildly coincidental as a local politician named Ron who is a lawyer by trade was recently convicted of barratry/ambulance chasing by having a client of his who was in prison solicit other prisoners for his legal services.

    This strip, of course, doesn’t depict barratry, as the prisoner is not directly soliciting anyone, but it was close enough to remind me of that situation.

  10. Mitch4 May 15th 2017 at 09:45 am 10

    “It’s all good, man. “

  11. James Pollock May 15th 2017 at 11:04 am 11

    “He doesn’t seem to have made a deal with anyone.”

    He’s made two… one with the government, and one with the defense lawyer. But you don’t see any?

  12. Winter Wallaby May 15th 2017 at 11:32 am 12

    Stan #6: I don’t see why you assume that the convict ends up badly in this deal. Imagine the defendant commits a crime for which he could get 30 years in prison, and for which conviction looks likely. The lawyer arranges a plea agreement where the government agrees to only put him in prison for 2 years, the defendant agrees to pay the lawyer $1000, and the defendant and the government agree that the defendant’s prison clothing will have advertising for the lawyer. All three parties might be relatively happy with such a deal.

  13. Boise Ed May 15th 2017 at 02:59 pm 13

    Mitch4 [10]: I wasted a minute trying to figure out why you had a semicolon there. It turned out that there was a speck on my screen, above your comma.

  14. Mark in Boston May 15th 2017 at 09:57 pm 14

    I can see why a lawyer would not want a contingency fee for a criminal defense. The defendant doesn’t get any money for being acquitted, so there’s no percentage there. The only possible contingency fee is that if the defendant is convicted and has to pay a fine, the lawyer pays one-third of the fine, or if sentenced to 3 years in jail, serves one of those years for his client.

  15. Stan May 16th 2017 at 03:06 am 15

    “He’s made two… one with the government, and one with the defense lawyer. But you don’t see any?”

    Not one that benefits him in any way. He has no power to choose what number he wears on his back. This would be a deal between the lawyer and the government which benefits them both, but not necessarily the client. No?

    “Stan #6: I don’t see why you assume that the convict ends up badly in this deal.”

    Not badly, just I don’t see any real deal that helps him, unless of course…

    “…he could get 30 years in prison…government agrees to only put him in prison for 2 years…defendant and the government agree that the defendant’s prison clothing will have advertising for the lawyer”

    …but why would the government agree to this? To save the cost of the trial/incarceration? If that’s the motive, then I guess that makes sense. Does this happen? Do criminals get reduced sentences just to save the gov’t cash? Spooky.

    I clearly haven’t got as sharp a legal mind as you guys. Let’s please drop this. I’ll take your word for it that all is good and I’ll start to hit the law books.

  16. James Pollock May 16th 2017 at 03:15 am 16

    “Not one that benefits him in any way.”

    He’s made a plea bargain (which results in less time in jail) and he’s wearing a custom prison uniform instead of having to pay his lawyer in cash. Those seem like benefits.

    “Do criminals get reduced sentences just to save the gov’t cash?”
    Yeah. Since 90% of criminal convictions are the result of pleas, the government only needs 10% of the courtrooms and judges, and maybe 20% of the prosecutors and public defenders. (And as it is, a “speedy trial” is when it takes place within 5 years of the crime.)

  17. Stan May 16th 2017 at 08:12 pm 17

    “…he’s wearing a custom prison uniform instead of having to pay his lawyer in cash.”

    …but he couldn’t possibly have make that deal. That would be an issue between the lawyer and the govern…never mind. I’m never going to see this.

    “Yeah.”

    Wow. I realised that plea agreements saved the gov’t money in various ways, but didn’t realise it was an actual motivation to allow criminals back on the streets earlier. Money talks and homicidal maniacs walk, eh? What a system.

  18. Winter Wallaby May 16th 2017 at 09:28 pm 18

    Stan #17: I wasn’t going to comment since you had asked to drop it, but since you’re still commenting. . .

    It doesn’t make sense to view plea agreements as a sweet deal for criminals where they get let out “earlier.” The government decides the maximum sentence, and then offers to take away the maximum sentence in the plea bargain. It’s no more a bargain for the suspect that it’s a bargain when the manufacturer announces that their As Seen on TV product has a value of $200, but if you act now, you can get it for $20.

    When the government sets maximum sentences, it’s not expecting to actually apply them, except in a small fraction of cases. We haven’t built the prisons that we would need to hold all the resulting prisoners, and we haven’t allocated the court resources that would be needed for all the cases. The government sets the maximum sentenes to give prosecutors a tool to coerce confessions from prisoners, not to actually apply them.

  19. Stan May 16th 2017 at 10:48 pm 19

    “but since you’re still commenting”

    Yea, sorry. I’d had enough of this too, but James said something that surprised me, so..well, you know. Here we are.

    “It doesn’t make sense to view plea agreements as a sweet deal for criminals where they get let out “earlier.””

    I see what you’re saying. It may not make sense to do that, but that’s how it’s sold. ‘Give us what we want and we’ll give you a sweet deal on the length of your sentence.’

    “The government sets the maximum sentenes to give prosecutors a tool to coerce confessions from prisoners, not to actually apply them.”

    Does this mean that if there’s nothing to coerce out of them from the get go, like they just walk into the police station and confess out of guilt or something, they get the maximum automatically? Or do they make exceptions like, “Wellll you’ve confessed without us having to hunt you down, and the maximum sentence is basically meaningless anyway, so how does 5 years sound?”

    Anyway, the mechanics of plea bargaining/sentencing wasn’t what surprised me really. It was that the expense of trials and containment would weigh in on determining the length of a sentence. You know, ‘He deserves 10 years, but think about it man, all that food, and electricity, and blankets, and toothbrushes…we can’t afford that! Give him five!’ It seemed like that’s what James was implying with his emphatic ‘Yeah’ to my question.

    Again, sorry about keeping all of this going everyone. I’m finding it interesting though.

  20. Stan May 16th 2017 at 10:56 pm 20

    Sorry to be a pain…I’d like to rephrase one of my last sentences:

    You know, ‘He deserves 10 years, but think about it man, all that food, and electricity, and blankets, and toothbrushes…we can’t afford that! Give him five if he confesses!’

  21. Winter Wallaby May 17th 2017 at 12:33 am 21

    Stan #19: You don’t need to apologize for continuing! I just meant that I hadn’t commented before because I had thought you wanted to stop.

    Prosecutors and judges can make all kinds of decisions about charges and sentencing for all kinds of reasons, so it’s pretty hard to make generalities about what they’re going to do. But I think they generally wouldn’t be inclined to give the maximum to someone who just confesses and pleads guilty on their own out of remorse.

    I wouldn’t expect prosecutors, as a whole, to worry too much about the costs of the prison term itself. It would be reasonable for them to think about those costs, because the system isn’t really set up for every prisoner to get the maximum sentence. But that cost is borne by the state, not the D.A.’s office specifically, and humans being what they are, I would expect most prosecutors just think about the costs to own incentives to plea bargain. First of all, the plea bargain is a sure thing, whereas with a trial, there’s always some chance that they’ll lose. Second, their office won’t have the manpower to take every single case to trial - or, likely, even 20% of cases to trial. So they want/need to plea bargain as well.

    When I was in middle school, a D.A. running for election ran commercials boasting a 95% conviction rate, and we asked our government teacher if that was true, and the guy was some super-lawyer of something. Then the teacher explained that, yeah, 90 of that 95% were probably plea bargains.

  22. James Pollock May 17th 2017 at 01:31 am 22

    “didn’t realise it was an actual motivation to allow criminals back on the streets earlier.”

    Try looking at it this way.
    The “bargaining” in plea bargaining has another component. Consider a case where a guy is accused of murder. 12 people saw it, and they’re all good citizens with reputations for honesty and accuracy. There’s also a videotape of the murder, and the murderer was caught at the scene, read his Miranda rights, and then voluntarily made a statement that he did it, he was glad he did it, he meant to do it, and there was no mistake about what he did. That guy is not going to get a plea bargain down to misdemeanor jaywalking.

    But consider the case where there was no witness, or the only witnesses are shaky… the facts suggest that they might not be sure who did it, or there are reasons to discount their testimony. Forensic evidence is weak, missing, or inconclusive. Or, the police have rock-solid evidence that links the murderer to the crime… but (oops) obtained it in violation of the suspect’s rights, so it is excluded as evidence for trial. This might lead the prosecutor to accept a plea deal for much less than murder… because the alternative is going to trial, and possibly seeing an acquittal. Doing four years instead of 20-to-life is bad (if the suspect actually did murder the victim) but doing four years instead of nothing is not.

    There are some other issues that come into play. (For example, rape victims do not typically enjoy testifying about their rape, and being cross-examined by the defense counsel. So prosecutors will plea bargain to save the victim from having to testify.

    ‘Give us what we want and we’ll give you a sweet deal on the length of your sentence.’
    That’s true of many plea bargains, but not all. A plea agreement may include a recommendation as to which prison a prisoner is sent to. In some cases, (”diversion”) the person gets a deferred sentence.. if they can go X amount of time without another conviction, they get to stay out, but any other brush with the law and boom… the whole sentence falls on them. We used to allow some people to enlist in lieu of jail time. Get a satisfactory discharge, and no jail time.

    Ultimately, however, a plea deal is simply a recommendation to the judge, who still decides what sentence to impose (from the statutory range… and federal judges are allowed to depart from that, if justice so demands. The federal sentencing system is VERY complex and it would take three times the number of words I’ve put down so far to even get close to explaining how it works.)
    So, imagine a state court, with a person accused of a crime for which the statutory penalty is between 3 and 8 years imprisonment. The fact that there is a range of penalties indicates that not all offenses are equal. Some people convicted of this crime “deserve” 3 years, and some “deserve” more. Part of our goal in imprisoning someone, is to keep them from doing it again. For some people, this goal is achieved on the first day; others might spend years in prison, be released, and then consider committing that exact same crime again. One of the factors that indicates the likelihood of recidivism is how cooperative the suspect is. What you see as “cutting them a break” can also be seen as “letting the sentence adjust to the specific details of the crime.

  23. Stan May 17th 2017 at 03:03 am 23

    @ WW and JP

    Thanks for that! I was inclined to think the same way that WW outlined the cost factor of sentencing, but was a little thrown off by JP hinting that it was a more significant issue earlier so I thought I’d stir the pot to get to the bottom of it. Anyhow, interesting analyses all around.

    This has inspired me. I’m off to watch old episodes of Law and Order now. If any more questions arise, I’m sure Jack McCoy can sort it out for me. Dum-dum!

  24. James Pollock May 17th 2017 at 03:28 am 24

    “This has inspired me. I’m off to watch old episodes of Law and Order”

    If I had a dollar for every time a law school professor said “it’s not like Law & Order”…

  25. Stan May 17th 2017 at 07:54 am 25

    If I had a dollar for every time a law school professor said “it’s not like Law & Order”…

    …you’d be making a living in an odd way.

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