25 Sep 23

What are the pros and cons of accepting a plea bargain in New York?

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Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 04:03 am

Pros and Cons of Plea Bargains in New York

If you’re facing criminal charges in New York, pleading guilty through a plea bargain is often presented as an easy way out. But are plea deals really in your best interest?

Plea bargains have major advantages and disadvantages you need to weigh carefully. This article breaks down the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

What is a Plea Bargain?

First, what exactly is a plea bargain? It’s an agreement between the prosecution and defense where the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for some kind of concession by the prosecutor.

Typical terms of a plea deal include:

  • Pleading to a lesser charge
  • Having charges dropped or reduced
  • Getting a lighter sentence recommendation

Over 90% of criminal cases resolve through plea bargains rather than trials. They help move cases through the overloaded system quickly.

Potential Pros of Plea Bargains

There are some major advantages that make plea bargains tempting for many defendants:

  • Certainty – You control the outcome rather than leaving it up to a jury.
  • Faster resolution – Cases end quickly rather than dragging on.
  • Lower charges – Plea deals often reduce or drop charges.
  • Lighter sentences – Plea deals commonly offer lower sentences.
  • Privacy – Avoids public trial and media coverage.
  • Lower costs – No need to pay for investigations, experts, etc.

These potential benefits make plea bargains tempting, especially if the evidence is stacked against you.

Potential Cons of Plea Bargains

However, there are also some major drawbacks to weigh:

  • Admitting guilt – You must admit responsibility, even if you’re innocent.
  • No trial rights – You waive your trial rights like confronting accusers.
  • Unpredictable judge – The judge may impose different penalties than the plea deal.
  • Future consequences – Convictions impact jobs, housing, reputation, etc.
  • Deportation – Non-citizens may face immigration consequences.

These cons demonstrate why it’s so critical to discuss all options thoroughly with your lawyer before accepting any plea offer.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

There are a few key factors to think over when deciding whether to accept a plea bargain:

  • Strength of evidence – Is there solid proof against you that makes conviction likely?
  • Potential penalties – How do possible plea deal terms compare to potential sentences after trial?
  • Prior record – Do you have a criminal history that could increase sentences?
  • Immigration status – Are you at risk for deportation or losing status?
  • Future goals – Will a conviction make it hard to get jobs, licensing, housing, etc?

Discussing these factors thoroughly with your lawyer is essential before making a decision.

Plea Bargaining Process

If you do opt to pursue a plea bargain, the process typically goes as follows:

  1. Prosecutor makes initial offer
  2. Defense negotiates for better terms
  3. Final written plea agreement is signed
  4. Formal guilty plea entered at hearing
  5. Judge decides whether to accept terms

The judge has final say and can reject agreements that are unfair or undermine justice. Never assume a deal is final until approved by the judge.

Going to Trial

What happens if you reject a plea bargain? Your case would proceed to trial by jury (or judge in some cases).

Key things to know about trial:

  • Prosecution must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt
  • You can fight evidence and cross-examine witnesses
  • Jury must reach unanimous verdict to convict
  • Judge determines sentence if convicted

Talk through trial strategy thoroughly with your lawyer before rejecting any plea offer.

Final Thoughts

The decision between plea bargain vs. trial is complex. There are reasonable pros and cons on both sides. Never rush into any plea deal without fully understanding the terms and consequences.

Carefully weigh options with your lawyer to determine if a plea is your best course. Make sure you feel comfortable before moving forward.


[1] Plea Bargaining in New York

[2] Plea Bargaining Research Summary

[3] New York Court Calendar with Attorney Appearances

[4] How to File a Pro Se Criminal Appeal in NY

[5] Motion for Assignment of Counsel in NY