When a Plea Bargain Is a Good Idea

Plea bargains have become increasingly important to criminal defendants these days as reports have shown that 97% of all federal criminal cases and 94% of state cases end in guilty pleas.  As most defendants do not wish for the uncertainty of trials – where one’s fate is left in the hands of a jury and if convicted, the trial judge – plea bargains can offer a definitive promise of punishment by prosecutors and in the federal system a small range of potential punishment as determined by the judge.  Of course, as the top criminal defense attorneys in New York know, the quality of your plea bargain is largely a function of the effort your lawyer puts in prior to cutting the deal.

The Advantages of Plea Agreements 

Beyond clearing up uncertainty in your case, plea bargains allow defendants to often plead to lesser charges than what is originally contained in the indictment or criminal complaint.  Along with a plea to lesser charges comes a lesser potential jail sentence than the what the original charges call for.  In addition, experienced criminal attorneys can sometimes convince prosecutors to throw in additional uncharged criminal conduct as part of the deal, meaning that the defendant will have “coverage” for those crimes without facing additional punishment.  I have had cases in which multiple additional murders have been covered in federal plea agreements, with clients serving a fraction of the time called for by a conviction of a single murder.

Defendants often are desperate to take a guilty plea as soon as they are indicted.  The pressure of a criminal case hanging over their heads is oftentimes overwhelming; however, although as noted above that about 97% of all federal cases end in pleas, a defendant does not have as much leverage to force a low plea deal at the very beginning of the case as he might closer to the date of the trial. While this presents additional risk there comes with this strategy great potential rewards: receiving the evidence in the case, investigating the witnesses and allegations and filing motions may result in the exclusion of some evidence and badly impeached government witnesses – which will allow for a greatly reduced plea offer.  We have had violent rape cases reduced to non-sexual misdemeanor plea offers even after the client confessed to the rape.  In one case, an initial plea offer to a violent rape charge was a no-jail sexual felony count: good in that the client would not be required to do jail time, bad in that he would become a convicted sex offender and lose his career forever.  After a year of investigating the complainant – which revealed her to have numerous credibility issues – and a successful motion to suppress photographic evidence, the accepted plea offer was a non-sex misdemeanor charge.  No jail, no sex offender status, career saved.  Had we taken one of the first offers we had been given, the client’s life would have been destroyed.  Ultimately, the more work your criminal lawyer puts in to hurting the government’s case, the lower your plea offer will be down the road. It’s a simple and obvious truth.

Using Psychologists To Help In the Plea Process

Many difficult cases end in very low plea deals because we have made presentations to prosecutors which explained the psychological basis for the defendant’s aberrational criminal conduct – and proof that our clients were not continued dangers to the community.  Numerous violent felonies have resulted in non-violent misdemeanor convictions; public lewdness charges against an NYPD Transit Captain once ended with dismissed charges and an intact pension.

Furthermore, hiring one of the best criminal trial attorneys in New York can convince a prosecutor that you intend to go to trial and not plead the case out.  If your lawyer has a track record of winning very difficult trials, my experience has shown that prosecutors are more likely to offer a favorable plea deal – in order to avoid the possibility of a trial loss.  And nowadays due to the dearth of criminal trials, an experienced and effective criminal trial lawyer is a true rarity – despite what lawyers will claim on their websites.

Contact a Top New York Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman at (212) 581-1001 to discuss your criminal case today.  With decades of high level experience and success in courtrooms throughout the country, we will assist you in determining the right path for your defense and ultimately secure for you the best possible result.