Anyone can make a mistake that attracts the attention of law enforcement. If this happens to you, officials may file criminal charges against you.
You absolutely have the right to challenge any charges filed against you. New York prosecutors bear the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, at times, the evidence associated with the charges is such that going to court and pleading not guilty may not be in your best interests.
What about a plea bargain?
The better resolution to the charges could involve accepting a plea bargain. Negotiations often include the following issues:
- The least often discussed issue involves admitting some facts in order to keep others out of the courtroom, but it is an option. This could lead to lesser charges since prosecutors will not introduce certain evidence in court.
- The most often discussed issues involve the charges. You may agree to plead guilty to a lesser offense in order to avoid going to trial for more serious offenses that come with harsher penalties.
- The other issue discussed in plea bargains is sentencing. You may agree to plead guilty to an offense in order to receive a lighter sentence. This may go hand-in-hand with negotiating your charges.
Before the court will accept a plea bargain, you must verify that you voluntarily and knowingly waive certain rights. The court will also want to know that the facts support the charge to which you agree to plead guilty.
How does the process work?
Negotiations occur between you and the prosecutor. The judge does not get involved until you go before him or her to propose the plea bargain. You need to know that the judge does not have to accept the agreement you made with the prosecutor. Even so, if the judge is satisfied with the deal, he or she should accept it.
You need intimate knowledge of the elements of the charges, the "lesser included" offenses and any related but separate offenses. You also need to understand the sentencing you could face for each. You further need to consider how accepting a plea bargain affects your criminal record, your personal life and your professional life. For instance, will this plea have other ramifications you need to consider that have nothing to do with the length of your sentence? You do not have to go through this process alone, and you probably shouldn't.