After Arraignment, all misdemeanor cases are scheduled for a Pre-Trial Conference. A Pre-Trial Conference is a meeting between an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and Defendant (or his/her attorney) to discuss whether the case will be resolved prior to trial. This is an opportunity for both sides to reach an agreement, short of trial. If an agreement is reached, in other words, if a Plea Bargain is reached, Defendant will take a plea, usually that day, and then be sentenced, usually at a later date. A Plea Bargain involves Defendant pleading guilty or no-contest under certain terms and conditions. Defendant may, for example, plead guilty or no-contest to a lesser charge than the original or plead guilty or no-contest to one count while other counts are dismissed. A Plea Bargain can also involve Defendant pleading guilty or no-contest to a specific charge with a recommendation of a lighter sentence. All plea agreements must be approved by the Judge.
A Plea Bargain does not have to be sought out at a Pre-Trial Conference. Both the Prosecutor and Defendant (or his/her attorney) can agree to adjourn the case at the Pre-Trial Conference and come back to discuss it later. This can be done for various reasons. One of the reasons to adjourn the case is for discovery. Defendant or his/her attorney may need additional time to get discovery in the case and examine all discovery materials prior to sitting down and discussing a Plea Bargain with the Prosecutor. Other than taking a plea or adjourning the case at Pre-Trial Conference, Defendant (or his/her attorney) may decide to set the case down for a Motion Hearing to, for example, ask the Court to make decisions on things such as admissible evidence, or may decide to set the case down for a Trial, either by a Jury, or a Judge.
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