If New Yorkers are facing criminal charges, they should know that a vast majority of criminal cases do not go to trial. If they go to trial, their attorney may come up with a criminal defense strategy to minimize penalties. The attorney may negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor with the hopes of getting a lighter sentence on lesser charges, instead of going to trial. Before accepting a plea bargain, one may discuss options with an attorney and decide whether accepting will be in one's best interest.
There are many incentives to plea bargaining for all parties involved. For the prosecuting attorney, it guarantees a conviction of some kind, even if it is on a lesser charge. Even if the prosecutor has a lot of evidence, they know there is no guarantee that they will win at trial. A plea bargain allows them to get a conviction without going through a long, time-consuming trial.
A defendant in the case, a plea bargain can lessen charges and result in a lighter sentence. For example, a felony charge may be dropped to a misdemeanor, allowing one to keep their professional license and continue working. Many people who accept plea deals end up with only one or two minor convictions on their record. If they go forward to trial, they may end up with multiple serious convictions.
But, just because a prosecutor offers a deal, does not mean it is the best possible option. One's attorney may advise that they deal is unjust and recommend to continue to trial. It is also important to remember that by accepting a plea deal, one is pleading guilty to one or more crimes. It can be difficult to plead guilty, especially if one knows that they are innocent of any wrongdoing. After considering financial stability, criminal history, severity of the charges and potential consequences, the accused and their attorney can work together to make the best decision for your life.
Source: FindLaw.com, "Plea Bargain Pros and Cons," accessed on Feb. 5, 2018