In my practice, making a plea agreement is a last resort, not a first option.

When a client comes to me, I first review all the evidence against him or her for any possible defense. Was the arrest based on probable cause? Was the search proper? Can the state prove all the elements of the crime?

But sometimes, the state’s case is very strong, and the client is best served by making a plea agreement.

Depending on the jurisdiction or the courtroom, I will negotiate a plea with either the state’s attorney or village prosecutor. In some cases, the judge will hold something called a 402 conference. In a 402 conference, the prosecutor and defense attorney meet in the judge’s chambers to discuss the case. At that time, I will present any evidence in your favor as to why you deserve a more lenient sentence. The judge will then make a recommendation regarding the charges and sentencing.

If the prosecutor’s offer or the judge’s recommendation is agreeable, you may accept the plea. This means you are giving up your rights to confront witnesses, go to trial or present evidence in your defense.

Or you can reject the offer and take your chances at trial.

In negotiating a plea, it helps to have an attorney who is respected at the courthouse and knows the players involved. The prosecutor does not have an incentive to make a good offer to an attorney who never takes cases to trial. An attorney who is familiar with the prosecutor and judges also has a better understanding of what to say on your behalf—or what will backfire.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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