Early in your federal criminal case, you have a major decision to make: do you want to accept a plea bargain from the federal prosecutor or go to trial? In the United States, upwards of 90% of federal criminal charges are settled before trial, and it is likely that statistic is even higher when it comes to federal criminal cases.
These numbers show that the vast majority of federal criminal defendants decide to plead guilty and accept the terms of a plea bargain. But that isn’t the right decision for every defendant. Part of your New York City federal criminal lawyer’s role is to guide you through the decision of accepting a plea bargain. In fact, this is a major requirement for any lawyer taking federal criminal cases, but the more you, as the defendant, know about plea bargains and going to trial, the better.
Here are three key facts about plea bargains and federal criminal charges that can help you decide if you should wait, refuse to plead guilty, and go to trial for your criminal case.
#1: A Plea Bargain Isn’t Always a Good Deal for Federal Defendants
Many federal criminal defendants assume that inherent a plea bargain is inherently better than losing a criminal case at trial. This might not be the case. Federal prosecutors aren’t always forthcoming about the intent and reasoning for a plea bargain, nor are they required to provide you with these specifics.
Remember a federal prosecutor has very different goals and interests than you and will use the tools available to end a case quickly, achieve a good result, and do that with as little friction and negotiation as possible. This might mean offering a plea bargain that doesn’t serve the defendant at all but leads to an easy guilty plea.
A plea bargain should be transparent and forthright, but the responsibility to fully understand the plea bargain and how it differs from the outcome at a federal criminal trial falls to you, which makes it incredibly important to seek advice from a New York City federal defense lawyer before accepting a plea bargain.
#2: You Can’t Plead Not Guilty in a Plea Bargain
Accepting a plea bargain means admitting your guilt to federal criminal charges. In the majority of plea bargains, the federal prosecutor will require a guilty plea, while certain cases can be settled through a plea of no contest. In either instance, you can’t maintain your innocence in court or with the federal prosecutors and still accept a plea bargain.
For some federal defendants, refusing a plea bargain is solely based on the right to a trial before a jury, while others are interested in the personal and societal implications of effectively admitting to a federal crime.
#3: Plea Bargaining Is in the Best Interest of the Prosecutor
Earlier we mentioned the divergent interests between a federal prosecutor and you, the defendant. When it comes to construction a plea bargain, the prosecutor is always going to draft an agreement and arrangement that best serves his or her interests, not yours. This is an important realization as you consider the terms of the plea bargain and whether or not you should plead guilty.
Here are the ways a plea bargain serves the federal prosecutor when it comes to federal criminal charges. It ends the criminal case sooner. The prosecutor can move the case off his or her docket and focus on other cases. A plea bargain assures the prosecutor wins a conviction on the federal criminal charges. This is a good outcome for the prosecutor.
Your interests may not be served by this result. You will have a criminal conviction on your record and that could be discoverable by future employers and licensing agencies. You may have to serve a prison sentence in federal prison when the outcome of taking federal criminal charges to court could be an acquittal. Finally, you are unlikely to have the option to appeal the guilty plea once a federal court approves the plea bargain.
Talk to a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
A New York City federal defense lawyer is an instrumental part of your decision to accept a plea bargain for federal criminal charges. A defense lawyer will have your best interest in mind and provide legal advice and counsel that goes towards this interest. For this reason, it is important to develop trust in your New York City federal criminal lawyer.
Wondering where to find a defense lawyer for your federal criminal charges? Start right here at Koch Law. We focus our defense practice on federal cases and we are ready to help you. Call us at (844) 562-4529.