Should you accept? The advantages and disadvantages of plea bargaining

Should you accept? The advantages and disadvantages of plea bargaining

Prosecutors will often present defendants and their counsel with plea bargains in criminal cases. When you accept, you’re often entering a guilty plea to lesser charges in exchange for a lighter sentence or similar incentive. Such an offer should never be discussed if your defense attorney is not present, as an opportunity that looks attractive on the surface could have unforeseen complications later on.

Advantages of a plea bargain

The primary benefit of a plea bargain is reduced criminal charges, which result in a lighter sentence and a record that reflects less severe offenses. For example, you may be given a chance to plead guilty to a misdemeanor instead of a felony, or to a crime of a lesser degree or class. The result is a more favorable outcome than if you were found guilty of the original charge.  For example:

  • Depending on the conditions, you may get out of jail sooner or even be released from custody once the plea is accepted. In any event, you will almost certainly serve a lighter sentence than if your case had proceeded to trial.

Accepting a plea bargain will also result in a quicker resolution of your case and, consequently, reduced legal costs because there is no trial and no follow-up court appearances. There is no more uncertainty about your future. You can deal with the consequences now instead of worry about them during a lengthy trial.

Disadvantages of a plea bargain

Despite their appeal, plea bargains have potentially serious disadvantages for your case. The main one is that by accepting a plea bargain, you are essentially admitting guilt and guaranteeing yourself a potential criminal record if you don’t have one already. You also eliminate the possibility of being found not guilty, which is especially distressing if you actually are innocent.

What’s the answer?

When the prosecution offers you a plea bargain, you should ask yourself why. If the case against you was so solid, then why even contemplate reducing the charges? Sometimes these offers are made because the prosecutor realizes that there are problems with the state’s case, such as questionable forensic evidence or lack of credible witnesses. You and your attorney should discuss the motive behind the offer and plan your response accordingly.

When you’re facing any situation that involves criminal charges, you need an experienced and knowledgeable New York criminal defense attorney to protect your interests and help guide your decisions. While a plea bargain can always be an advantage in some circumstances, your attorney has the knowledge of the law necessary to make the correct call. Julie Rendelman is a criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years of experience. She worked as a prosecutor in the Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney’s Office and understands what is at stake for an individual once criminal charges have been brought forth. She offers free consultations and can advise you if a plea bargain is in your best interest. You can reach her office at 212-951-1232. Visit for information on the areas of law that Ms. Rendelman handles.