Defendants generally don’t want to spend time in prison, but avoiding a guilty verdict might be impossible. However, a defendant may have the option to seek a plea bargain. Typically, a plea bargain agreement results in lesser penalties than a guilty verdict in the New York courts.
Plea bargain agreements and criminal cases
A defendant may agree to a plea bargain to avoid harsher penalties. For example, a defendant could risk facing a mandatory minimum sentence if found guilty of a particular felony. A plea bargain agreement might result in far less severe punishment.
In some cases, a plea bargain agreement could lead to a misdemeanor conviction instead of a felony. Plea bargains may result in no jail time, as the agreement could involve probation only. These results might seem preferable to someone whose chances of a not-guilty verdict appear slim.
That is not to say that plea bargains always reflect fairness and equity. Criminal justice history is rife with people who pleaded guilty to crimes they did not commit to escape potentially worse punishment in court.
Weighing options for a plea bargain
Prosecutors might prefer to offer a plea bargain for the same reasons a defendant might accept the deal. Trials cost time and money, and plea bargains cut down on time and costs. No one knows how a jury will react, which adds to the risks.
Perhaps a member of the jury has biases either for or against those facing drug charges. Both the defendant and the prosecutor may have no idea a juror harbors any biases.
A defense attorney might negotiate a fair plea bargain deal with a prosecutor. Ultimately, it is then up to the defendant to accept or decline the agreement.