James M. Wagman, Attorney at Law
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What should I know about a plea negotiation in New York?

When a New Yorker is arrested on criminal charges, there will be a litany of concerns that must be addressed. Among them is the potential consequences they will face. The penalties will inevitably vary depending on the alleged crime that was committed. If it is a lower-level crime, then the possible jail sentence, fine and more will be less than if it is a felony offense involving drugs, weapons or violence. Regardless, understanding how the state oversees a possible plea negotiation, when it is possible and if it is wise to accept it is an important factor in any case.

With plea bargaining, the legal representative for the accused will talk to the prosecutor about the options for a settlement of the charges without the need for a trial. There is no specific time at which the plea bargain must take place. It can be from the time the person is arraigned all the way through the trial. The prosecutor is under no obligation to offer a plea bargain, but in some cases, it is better for all parties to do so. The judge must approve the agreement. An example might be a person who will agree to a reduced charge from the original allegations and avoid jail time.

Often, people make the mistake of accepting a plea bargain in a case in which there is a limited amount of evidence that they are guilty. Or they will accept it without realizing that they are admitting to a crime and it can negatively affect them for an extended period even if they avoid the worst-case scenario that might have come about had they gone to trial and been found guilty. A plea negotiation is exactly what it says it is: a back and forth between the person's legal representative and a prosecutor to find common ground in the best interests of everyone involved. It is not automatically necessary, nor is it smart to simply accept a plea bargain just because it is offered.

No matter the genesis of the criminal charges, anyone who is arrested and facing trial should think about the positives and negatives of a plea agreement if the idea is broached and one is offered. A law firm that has experience in criminal cases of all kinds from violence to drunk driving to drugs and more can help with the process. Calling a criminal defense attorney is crucial from the beginning.

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