What Is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement in which the prosecutor and the defendant agree to settle the criminal case against the defendant. The defendant pleads guilty or no contest to the charges in exchange for some agreement from the prosecutor as to the sentencing. In some cases the prosecutor will agree to charge a lesser crime or dismiss some of the charges against the defendant in exchange for a guilty plea. The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved by plea bargains.

If you have been charged with a crime, you may feel like a plea bargain is your best option. It can be expensive to hire your own criminal defense attorney, and an overworked public defender may be encouraging you to enter into a plea bargain. You may feel like the evidence against you is overwhelming, so why even bother fighting the charges.

However, before you agree to a plea bargain, you should be completely aware of the consequences of a plea bargain and your options. First, you may have very valid defenses that either your attorney wasn’t aware of or didn’t present to you. Some inexperienced attorneys may not be aware of all of the defenses available to you. Second, if you plead guilty you will have a criminal record. A criminal record can affect you for years, decades, or in some cases the rest of your life. It may not be worth having a criminal record just to get the case behind you. Finally, skilled criminal defense attorneys can be expensive, but if you consider the costs to your family and your future career in having a criminal record, you may decide that hiring a skilled New York criminal defense attorney is the best move.