Interviewer: When do Plea Agreements occur? What’s the purpose of them, and what are some of their conditions?
Paul Tafelski: Usually, after someone’s charged, they’re going to have an arraignment. That’s the first step. At the time of the arraignment, the judge or magistrate will set the terms of bond. Bond conditions mean how you have to behave while your case is pending. Typically, one of the main bond conditions in a domestic violence case is that you can have no contact with the complaining parties. Usually that may be the wife, and so that means the husband cannot stay at the marital home. He cannot live at home. He cannot speak to the wife, e-mail the wife, or discuss anything with her – not just this case. It means they can’t discuss their kids; they can’t discuss their transportation needs. They can’t deal with any of life’s normal issues while this case is pending.
Then the other thing is that often alcohol or drugs were involved in these cases and the court will often put the defendant on drug or alcohol testing while the case is pending. Those conditions stay in place right from the beginning. Usually it’s best to have your lawyer come with you to the arraignment so that you can argue for the minimum of bond conditions instead of standard conditions or the worst conditions.
The next hearing after the arraignment is the pretrial. The pretrial is when the lawyer and the prosecuting attorney can discuss the case and sort of try and determine what is going to happen from here. Is this a case where a plea bargain is going to be made? Is this a case that’s going to go to trial? Is this a case where there are any evidence issues that need to be dealt with in court? Then you take that step. Usually after the pretrial is done either there’s a plea and then the person comes back another time for sentencing, or the case gets set for trial and you get ready for your trial.
Drugs & Alcohol in Domestic Violence Cases
Interviewer: If alcohol and drugs were involved in the situation, how does it complicate matters a bit?
Paul Tafelski: It doesn’t complicate matters too much unless the person gets convicted or pleads guilty. If they do, then when they go on probation, which is a common occurrence on a first defense case, the court looks at the alcohol or the drugs as being a contributing factor for what happened. Therefore, they’re going to try and prevent you from drinking or using any drugs while you’re on probation. The way they do this is by random drug or alcohol testing. It becomes more of an issue if you plead guilty if you’re on probation.
Probation in Domestic Violence Cases
Interviewer: What would justify getting probation in a case like this? How long would it last?
Paul Tafelski: If probation is for a misdemeanor, the maximum it can be is for two years. It can be anywhere up to two years. For a felony, it’s up to five years. That’s really up to the judge and what can you get them to agree to. Typically, they’re going to want probation to be somewhere between one year and two years. When it comes time to sentencing, the game plan is usually consistent, and that is you sit down and you figure out what are the best things that we can argue with our particular judge in order to obtain the best possible result. It’s damage control and trying to just make sure that the client does not have so much stuff heaped on their plate that they can’t manage it and still manage their job and their family and everything else.