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What should you consider when you negotiate a plea deal?

After facing criminal charges, you may be considering negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecution. Plea bargains allow defendants to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

There are a few important things to think about when negotiating a plea bargain.

The charges against you

Carefully review the charges and potential penalties you are facing. Understand the mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines for each charge. The prosecutors may initially hit you with the maximum charges, but they may consider reducing or dropping some charges through negotiation.

Your criminal history

Your past record will impact the deal you can get. Be realistic about your history so you can better assess the options. Limited or dated priors can help, while an extensive or violent record makes bargaining tougher. Still, skillful negotiations can lead to deals even for repeat offenders.

The strength of the prosecution’s case

Analyze the facts and evidence against you. Weak cases provide more bargaining power, while strong cases limit options. Yet even strong cases have flaws that you can exploit when negotiating for reduced charges or sentencing leniency.

Your personal situation

Your background, responsibilities and future plans matter too. For example, highlight work, education, family obligations and community ties that a harsh sentence would disrupt. Stress any health conditions, dependencies or disabilities as well. These factors may help humanize you and sway prosecutors.

Negotiating plea deals is complex, but understanding these key factors will help you negotiate the best outcome possible. Be open, review the details closely and accentuate any mitigating circumstances. With preparation and skill, it is often possible to secure a fair plea agreement.