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Cooperation with Law Enforcement in California Criminal Defense

Cooperation with Law Enforcement in California Criminal Defense

Cooperation with law enforcement.  Working off your case.  These are topics that are rarely discussed in public forums.  These are uncomfortable topics.  But jail and prison are uncomfortable places to spend time and sometimes, we have to look out for number one, while trying to avoid stepping in number two.

How does it work and is it right for you?

In federal court, cooperation with law enforcement is the norm.  But that norm is very different in practice then it is in state court.  In federal cases it is quite common for our clients to sit down with case investigators (the cops) and have frank conversations about their activities, other people involved and anything else the cops want to know.  We need to be honest and we always get a benefit from this at the time of sentencing.

State court is quite different.  If we talk to the cops, it is almost always used against us.  Settlement offers from DA’s don’t get better after we have made incriminating statements.  We don’t get “points off” for talking to the cops like we do in the Fed.  So how can we help ourselves? The first thing to do is exercise your right to remain silent.  Ask for your lawyer.  Your lawyer can set up a meeting with the DA or with the investigating officers if you want to cooperate.  From there we can outline a plan of what the cops want done and whether or not it’s something you can accomplish.

After that, the actual work gets done.  Historically, to “work off” a felony or at the least the jail/prison portion of the felony, the cops want to see three good faith acts by the defendant.  These could be “buys” or “sales” in the case of drugs.  This could be making connections for the cops.  The rule of three is not a hard and fast rule.  Rather, it’s a guideline.  One large task could be enough for some benefit.  In any event, after the “work” is done, the investigating officer will write a letter and send it to the DA’s office explaining that the defendant cooperated, and that law enforcement achieved some benefit from the work.  Some cops will even go so far as to come to court and tell the judge what was done or how a benefit was achieved.

The real trouble with working for the cops is that we never know how much of a benefit we are going to get.  Some cops simply want to work their leads and don’t care about offering them a benefit or jeopardizing their safety.  Communication is important in this regard.  The lawyer’s job is to make sure their client does not get taken advantage of.  The lawyer’s job is to make sure the client gets the benefit of their good deeds.  This may take calls or letters or emails or additional court dates.  In the end, the work often benefits the client.  In 25 years, I have never had a client work for a cop and get hurt doing it.  It may be scary, but the benefits have always seemed to out way the risks.

What kind of cases can benefit from cooperation?  The first case that comes to mind is a drug case.  Also, in other cases like theft cases, prostitution cases, large frauds, any many other conspiracy’s, suspects may be able to benefit by cooperation.  Should you be arrested, the best thing to do is remain silent.  Ask for a lawyer.  If you can’t afford a lawyer, one will eventually be appointed for you.  If you hire a lawyer, make sure you hire someone who does criminal defense every day.  Talk to the lawyer about your options.  Listen to what the lawyer has to say.

If you or someone you love is facing a criminal case, call a lawyer who has been helping people for 25 years.  Sometimes solving your problems requires creativity.  The reason I love my job is because every client is different and every case is different.  Call me if you want help finding solutions.

Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or email me at:

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