Pre-Trial Conference FAQ
What is a pre-trial conference?
This is a court setting where we discuss the case with the prosecutors. Sometimes it is over the phone or email. The prosecutors are not always available or ready to discuss the case, though.
Should I come to this setting?
You should only come if we told you to come (in the update e-mail, at the last court date or by phone). If we didn’t ask you to come, then it is not necessary.
Will the prosecutors tell us what type of plea bargain they are willing to offer?
They will usually make a plea bargain recommendation if we ask for one. However, they sometimes ask for more time to contact witnesses or investigate other aspects of the case. We also may need more time before we are ready to discuss - to receive more discovery or for you to complete counseling.
Do you always ask for a plea bargain?
Not always. We sometimes wait until you have completed classes, or we have other mitigating documents such as references, proof of employment or statements by our witnesses.
How many pre-trial conferences will there be?
There are usually three or four settings (over three months). This gives us time to adjust the plea bargain for the best result. Hopefully our negotiation will result in a dismissal. If that is not possible, then we try to negotiate the best plea bargain we can. If the plea bargain is still unsatisfactory, then you and I will discuss having a jury trial.
We’ve had more than three pre-trial conferences. Is that normal?
There are some circumstances where the judge allows us to have more pre-trial conferences. For example, sometimes the police can’t find the video of the incident, or a witness is hard to locate, or there is restitution due but the amount is unknown. There are many reasons that could delay the resolution of the case. I will use any delay to our advantage if possible.
We’ve really had a lot of pre-trial conferences. What is the record number you’ve had on a particular case?
I once had a case with fifteen pre-trial conferences. Obviously this is not ideal. No one wants to deal with their case for over a year. I want to get the best resolution for your case as soon as possible. However, sometimes the best resolution to a case comes after the prosecution is tired of dealing with it.
Can we delay it forever?
No. The judge will eventually force us to take the plea bargain or have a jury trial. Each judge has a docket of cases that are assigned to them. The judges apply pressure (via court policies) to defense attorneys and prosecutors to reach an agreement and resolve the case as efficiently as possible – while still respecting the constitutional rights of the defendants. If they didn’t apply pressure, their dockets would overflow and the courts would have to open on weekends to handle all the unresolved cases. Some judges are very strict about the number of pre-trial conferences that they allow. Others allow more leeway.
How will I find out what happened at the pre-trial conference?
We will send you an e-mail by the end of the day. The e-mail will explain any new developments. If the news is too complicated to convey via e-mail, we will call you with an update.