In our previous post, we discussed what to expect at your arraignment or initial appearance. This post deals with one of the most important proceedings in the Maine criminal system - the Dispositional Conference. The Dispositional Conference is usually at least a month out from your arraignment date, if not longer. By setting your Dispositional Conference further out, your attorney will have the time necessary to discuss the discovery with you and develop a defense strategy. This lead time also gives the District Attorney an opportunity to review the case and, if necessary, provide more discovery too your attorney. Finally, if someone goes to Court without an attorney for their arraignment, that person can hire an attorney with plenty of time before the conference, or can ask the court to appoint an attorney.
The Dispositional Conference is usually your attorney's first real chance to discuss the case with the District Attorney's office. The ultimate goal of the Dispositional Conference is to resolve the case by agreement between you and the district attorney's office. The discussion takes place between your attorney and a prosecutor from the District Attorney's office. Here, the State will lay out its case against you, and discuss how it intends to prove the case against you should you go to trial. A criminal defense attorney will address your individual circumstances to the State that either mitigate your actions, or explain why a certain recommended sentence may be inappropriate in your particular case. Furthermore, the defense attorney will discuss potential legal defenses to the charges that may cause the prosecutor to reconsider his or her initial plea offer, or may result in the prosecutor reducing or dismissing charges due to proof problems.
Usually, a good defense attorney and prosecutor can reach a resolution during this point of the dispositional conference. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the attorneys will meet with the judge in his or her chambers, outside of the courtroom, to discuss the case. Each side will present an argument about the legal issues that are particular to your case, as well as discuss your individual circumstances as justification for a particular offer. The judge will give his or her opinion on the case, with both sides hoping the judge will push the other closer towards an agreement in their favor. The judge will discuss the strength of the case and the State's chances for convicting you at trial as well as any legal issues that, if successfully litigated, would result in suppression (exclusion) of evidence and how that would impact the State's case. After this conference, each side will attempt to reach an agreement based on the judge's recommendations. However, at the end of the day, if you are charged with a crime, it is your sole choice as to whether or not the case resolves or goes to trial. A good defense attorney will do everything within his or her power to get the best resolution for you, and present you with his or her recommendation, as well as take the time to discuss your chances of succeeding at a motion hearing or trial.
In many instances cases are resolved after this date, or all parties come up with a plan to resolve the case at a later point. However, sometimes an agreement can't be reached, and the case will proceed to trial. Having a criminal defense attorney represent you at this stage of the court proceedings is crucial to ensure you obtain the best possible resolution in your case. If you have a defense attorney, that attorney may file motions during the dispositional conference to try to suppress evidence or address problems in the case before trial. These motions are always based on a specific legal issue, and having an attorney is key to making sure your case is fully defended, and no stone is left unturned in defending you.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense, contact the attorneys of WTB LAW today for a free consultation.