More than 97% of federal convictions result from a plea bargain, according to the Cato Institute. Even if a case proceeds to trial, it can still end with a plea bargain. The circumstances of each case in New Jersey District Court dictate whether a plea bargain is right for a defendant, and your attorney should have an in-depth discussion about potential plea agreements.
Pleading guilty means admitting fault for the alleged offense, at least for legal purposes. This is an important decision that will come with real legal consequences. Our firm can help you weigh the consequences and merits of a plea deal, and help you make the right decision.
Why Might You and Your Attorney Consider a Plea Bargain?
In a broad sense, you and your defense attorney should only consider a plea bargain because it is in your best interest. Not every defendant has the financial means or willpower to take on the federal government at trial. Even those who are determined and financially able to take their case to trial may have other factors to consider—the possibility of being away from children for a long period, for example.
Some specific reasons why you may at least consider a plea bargain include:
- The possibility of a lengthy prison sentence if a jury convicts you
- Extremely favorable terms of the plea bargain (mere probation, for example)
- The prosecutor's stated willingness to pursue the maximum sentencing if you forego a plea bargain and are eventually convicted
- Your feeling that evidence and witness statements paint you in a poor light, and that the likelihood of conviction could be higher than you're comfortable with
Your defense attorney will be an immense resource when it comes to plea agreements. Your lawyer will negotiate for the most favorable plea bargain they can secure. Once they have pressed the prosecutor for the most favorable terms, your lawyer will advise you on the merits and drawbacks of the proposed deal.
You will have total control over accepting or rejecting a plea bargain.
The Details of Your Life May Inform Your Decision of Whether the Plead Guilty
Unfortunately, federal trials in New Jersey are not always a matter of right and wrong, guilty or innocent. Once you are embroiled in the federal justice system, you must do everything in your power to protect yourself and your loved ones.
The unique realities of your life may be relevant as you consider a plea agreement, and you may choose to accept or reject a plea agreement based on:
- Whether you have children, and the potential consequences of a trial conviction for you and your children
- Whether you can afford the legal cost of a trial
- The professional ramifications of the legal process
- Other factors that range beyond the simpler question of “Am I guilty or not?”
The Offices of the United States Attorneys explains that the judge in your New Jersey District Court has sole power to sentence you. However, the prosecutor may reduce your sentence as part of the plea agreement and agree to recommend a certain sentence to the judge. Except in rare cases, a judge will generally respect the conditions of a plea agreement.
The Prosecutor in Your Case May Have Several Reasons to Extend a Fair Plea Bargain
If the prosecutor has the financial might and resources of the federal government behind them, why would they offer a plea bargain that concedes anything to the defendant?
There are several reasons for federal prosecutors in New Jersey to offer plea bargains, including:
- Their caseloads: Prosecutors tend to carry heavy caseloads at all times. A quick resolution, so long as it is fair, is generally preferable to a drawn-out trial.
- Their personal record: Prosecutorial wins and losses matter, especially on a personal level. If a prosecutor can secure a certain conviction through a plea agreement, this may be a “W” on their professional record.
- Their employer's finances: While the federal government does have immense resources to use in the legal arena, prosecutors do not necessarily have a blank check. Trials can be expensive, and all parties may seek to avoid them when possible.
In many cases, the defendant and prosecutor have multiple reasons for accepting a plea agreement.
Your Attorney Will Lead Plea Negotiations
As you'd see in a trial, plea negotiations pit the prosecutor against the defense attorney. While each party may have hard limits for what terms they will and will not accept, your lawyer may conduct a back-and-forth with the prosecutor, fighting for the most favorable plea terms possible.
When you plead guilty, you spare the prosecutor the risk of losing at trial. Therefore, the prosecutor must grant you something in concern—a dropped charge, a reduced charge, a guarantee that you will not be imprisoned, or another concession.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento fights for the strongest plea agreement that his clients can secure in cases where the client is willing to plead. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today or contact us online regarding your federal criminal case in New Jersey.