Anyone could be charged with a crime. If this should happen to you in the state of New York, you will need to know what plea bargains are, because a plea bargain may be offered to you.

If you are arrested and charged with any crime in this state, the first step that you must take – as quickly as you can – is to speak about your case, your rights, and your defense with an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney. You must make that call at once.

WHAT WILL YOU REQUIRE IF YOU’RE ACCUSED OF A CRIME?

This cannot be overstated. Every person who is charged with a crime in the state of New York must have the advice and representation that can only be offered by a skilled and qualified defense lawyer.

Accused of a Crime

You should not agree to any “deal” or plea arrangement until and unless your defense lawyer recommends it as the best alternative that is available to you. And you should never try to negotiate a plea arrangement on your own.

HOW COMMON ARE PLEA BARGAINS IN NEW YORK?

A plea bargain is a binding, legal contract that resolves and ends the prosecution of a criminal defendant. These agreements are common and routine in the criminal justice system. Only a fraction of the criminal charges filed by New York prosecutors concludes with courtroom trials.

Plea bargain negotiations may be initiated even before charges are filed, and a plea bargain can be negotiated at any time prior to a trial jury’s delivery of a verdict.

In most plea agreements, a defendant enters a guilty plea (or a “no contest” plea) to at least one charge. In return for that guilty or no contest plea, other charges are then reduced or entirely dismissed.

SHOULD YOUR ATTORNEY NEGOTIATE A PLEA BARGAIN?

Unless you are innocent of the charge against you – in which case you should plead not guilty and insist on a jury trial – it may be best to let a good defense attorney negotiate an acceptable plea bargain on your behalf.

Your defense lawyer should be an experienced negotiator who will see to it that you obtain the best possible plea deal.

Criminal trials in New York may take weeks – sometimes months – but plea deals can be agreed upon in minutes. And compared to a jury trial, a plea bargain gives both sides a bit more control over the case and the outcome.

WHY ARE PLEA BARGAINS SO COMMON?

Prosecutors and judges in New York count on plea deals to move cases briskly through the system. Without plea deals, the justice system in all fifty states would swiftly be swamped and probably grind to a standstill.

Plea Bargains

If you are charged with a crime, a trial by a jury of your peers is your constitutional right, but in fact, most criminal cases in New York are resolved with no trial and no need for a trial.

Plea bargains produce over ninety percent of the criminal convictions in this nation. When negotiating plea agreements, prosecuting attorneys must stick to strict rules that specify exactly how plea bargains are to be negotiated.

WHAT MUST DEFENDANTS CONSIDER WHEN PLEA DEALS ARE OFFERED?

When defendants and their defense attorneys consider a plea deal, the state’s evidence is probably the primary consideration. If the state’s case is strong, your defense lawyer may recommend taking a plea deal.

The law compels prosecutors to share their evidence with defense attorneys prior to trial, so if you are the defendant, your defense lawyer can probably determine – before the trial starts – if there is or is not sufficient evidence for a conviction.

Skilled Criminal Defense

If the prosecution’s case has flaws, and the evidence in your defense is reliable, your attorney may recommend going to court and asking a jury to find you not guilty.

Prosecutors can be tough plea bargain negotiators. To pressure defendants into accepting a plea bargain, they may use a tactic called “overcharging.”

WHAT IS OVERCHARGING AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

If a prosecutor believes that a serious charge against a defendant is supported by persuasive evidence, that prosecutor may file additional charges – even with weak evidence – and then offer to drop the additional charges in exchange for a guilty plea on the original charge.

Some prosecutors overcharge in some cases to win convictions without having to go to trial. If you are being “overcharged” by a prosecutor, a good defense attorney may able to have the judge dismiss the weaker additional charge or charges.

Because each case is unique, when you and your attorney review a plea bargain offer, a number of factors must be taken into account:

1. the exact details of what is being offered by the state
2. the details and the evidence in the case
3. what’s at stake and what happens if you reject the plea bargain offer

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU REJECT A PLEA BARGAIN OFFER?

Of course, if you are personally certain that you are not guilty as charged, you have the right to reject any plea bargain offer, and you may insist on a jury trial.

If you are innocent, an accomplished Westchester County criminal defense attorney will aggressively protect your rights and advocate in court for justice on your behalf.

But a plea bargain – provided that it’s fair – can often be the best option. In the end, there really is no way to predict what a trial may reveal or what a jury will do. Even the most skilled defense lawyer cannot promise or guarantee a particular outcome to any individual case.

WHO MAKES THE FINAL DECISION REGARDING A PLEA BARGAIN OFFER?

It is critical for a criminal defendant to understand that by rejecting a plea bargain offer and insisting on a trial, a conviction will almost certainly mean a harsher sentence. That possibility must be a consideration.

Offers

In the end, however, if you are the defendant, accepting or rejecting a plea bargain offer is your decision and yours alone.

Choosing the right lawyer can make all the difference. If you are charged with a crime in this state, you must have the advice, insights, and aggressive representation that a skilled New York criminal defense lawyer will provide. A good defense attorney’s help is your right.

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.

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