Can a Defendant Talk to the District Attorney in California?
Individuals facing criminal charges in California have a right to negotiate their case with the district attorney. The better question is, should you?
The district attorney cannot speak with you alone if they know you have legal representation. In that case, you’ll need to make sure your lawyer is present or the district attorney could face ethics charges.
Some alleged criminals think they can negotiate a fair sentence with the D.A. and avoid hiring an attorney. While this happens from time to time, there is a huge risk with testing your negotiation skills before hiring a lawyer. Here are some of those risks.
- You might tell the prosecution details or evidence they didn’t know about in the case against you.
- Because the D.A. will use legal terms, you might mistakenly agree to terms that are not actually that favorable.
- You might agree to terms and conditions that you don’t fully understand.
- In your conversation, you could unknowingly plead guilty to an aspect of the case that the prosecution wasn’t able to prove yet.
- The negotiation might have little grounds because the key evidence from the investigating or arresting officer was a violation of your rights.
Regardless of whether you’re facing misdemeanor or felony charges, you should retain counsel immediately. Then, anytime someone asks you a question, request that your attorney be present. You want everyone involved to know you have legal representation.
What happens if the D.A. tries to talk to me?
Part of your legal proceeding will be the opportunity to speak with the D.A. They might even bring in a prosecutor while questioning you. Be very careful with what you say and what actions you take in these cases.
You have two options when you’re being coaxed to talk to a prosecutor.
- Invoke your right to remain silent. This is completely legal and will ensure that you don’t say something incriminating.
- Request that your attorney be present. If you don’t yet have an attorney, this is another opportunity to hire one.
Even if you don’t have an attorney yet, just voicing that you would like one means that the prosecution must stop questioning you until an attorney is present. If they don’t stop questioning you once you’ve requested an attorney, the situation could be a violation of a constitutional right.
What information does the D.A. already have access to?
If you choose to move forward with negotiating your case without an attorney present, you should know what information the prosecuting attorney has against you. The following list is just what is certain. There could be additional evidence from their investigation against you that you aren’t aware of yet.
- All information detailed in the police report
- Details from the grand jury proceedings
- Statements that the alleged victim has made about you
You do not have any obligation to engage in this conversation with the D.A. It is an option and one that’s designed to allow you time to negotiate your case but it can have severe repercussions.
For example, the D.A. might offer a plea bargain that sounds pretty good to you. But that plea bargain might mean agreeing to severe charges that you wouldn’t face if you went to court with a proper legal defense. Generally, these plea deals are not in your best interest.
When to request legal counsel
From the moment you know charges are being filed against you or you are arrested, you should retain legal counsel. The sooner you engage legal counsel, the better your chances are of getting a better outcome for your case. You’ll avoid saying the wrong thing during questioning and ensure you don’t accept a poor plea bargain.
If you need legal representation, contact our office and we’ll be there to help you as quickly as possible.