Many people ask this question since plea bargains resolve over 95 percent of criminal cases. However, there is a big difference between an attorney-negotiated plea bargain and the prosecutor’s first offer. Whether you are buying a car or settling felony criminal charges, the other party’s first offer is hardly ever the best. Since there is a lot more at stake in criminal cases, you need a Rochester criminal defense lawyer whether you are pleading guilty or going to trial.
When the Founding Fathers drafted the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel, plea bargains were almost unheard of. These arrangements became more common around the turn of the 20th century. As the country’s population expanded rapidly, there were not enough courts and judges to handle the increased caseload. By the 1960s, plea bargains were more common than trials.
Features of a Favorable Plea Bargain
The best plea agreements feature deferred disposition options which result in no criminal conviction. These arrangements are especially important in New York. It is difficult to expunge or seal criminal records in the Empire State.
At a minimum, a plea bargain should include a reduced sentence or a reduced charge. A trial may be a better option if that’s not the case.
Pretrial diversion is usually available in misdemeanor cases if the defendant has no criminal record. Program requirements vary in different courts. But most Monroe County pretrial diversion plans require defendants to complete community service requirements, pay restitution (if any), and attend a victim impact panel or another similar class. Then, prosecutors dismiss the case.
Deferred disposition is a lot like probation. But, if the defendant successfully completes all probation requirements, the judge dismisses the case. Often, a Rochester criminal defense attorney can file a motion for early release from probation, so these requirements are not as onerous.
These options have some significant pros and cons, as outlined below.
A reduced or probated jail sentence is obviously a good thing. Reduced charges may be an even better thing. For example, prosecutors sometimes reduce some sex crime charges to reckless conduct. This offense does not have nearly as many collateral consequences.
How Rochester Criminal Defense Lawyers Get the Best Deals
Usually, prosecutors do not hand out good deals like the ones described above. They are only available if the defendant has a solid defense or the state’s evidence is weak. Many criminal cases have procedural defenses. Some common ones include:
- Defective search or arrest warrant,
- Inapplicable search warrant exception, such as plain view or consent, and
- Failure to properly Mirandize the defendant.
A lack of evidence is also a good defense. Prosecutors must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Many times, circumstantial evidence alone is not sufficient.
DUIs are an excellent illustration. Circumstantial evidence of intoxication, like bloodshot eyes and an odor of alcohol, often does not hold up in court.
Should I Accept the Negotiated Plea Arrangement?
When people buy cars, it is relatively easy to determine if the sale price is good or bad. But in criminal cases, only a Rochester criminal defense lawyer has enough experience to make this determination. So, if your lawyer recommends acceptance, that’s probably what you should do.
Additionally, guilty pleas usually have significant consequences. Prosecutors have no legal duty to explain these consequences to defendants, so they do not do so.
The aforementioned deferred disposition options are a good example. If a defendant does not successfully complete pretrial diversion, the prosecution simply starts over. But if a defendant does not successfully complete deferred adjudication probation, the judge could sentence the defendant to the maximum legal sentence.
Contact a Diligent Attorney
A negotiated settlement is usually a good way to resolve criminal charges. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal defense lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.