Plea Bargaining Strategies: Part One
Contrary to what you may think, most criminal cases result in a guilty plea instead of a trial and conviction. That is just the reality. So, from the very beginning of a criminal defense case, it is wise to at least explore the possibility of negotiating a favorable plea agreement. There are a few plea bargaining strategies that can be useful, as explained in Thomas J. Farrell’s “Criminal Defense Tools and Techniques.”
Consider the Collateral Consequences of a Plea Bargain
When the charges carry the same sentence, it is best to bargain for the charge that carries the fewest collateral or future consequences. In other words, avoid convictions for crimes of violence, sex offenses or drug offenses, as these crimes often trigger further consequences such as disqualification for benefits programs, sex offender registration and recidivist sentencing provisions on subsequent convictions.
Be Careful of Appeal Waivers
Including a waiver of the right to appeal, as part of a plea agreement, has become pretty routine in federal prosecutions. The waiver may apply to either the conviction, the sentence, or both. Generally speaking, it is reasonable to consider an appeal wavier if the plea agreement will provide a benefit that you are otherwise unlikely to receive without the plea agreement. For example, waiver of a mandatory minimum sentence, dismissal of a count that carries a severe collateral consequence increases the minimum sentence would make waiving the right to appeal a reasonable concession.
A “No Contest” Plea is Rarely Recommended
A plea of “no contest” or nolo contendere is where the defendant neither admits nor disputes the charge against him, which is an alternative to pleading guilty or not guilty. This type of plea is beneficial with there is related civil litigation pending or likely. However, you need to be aware of any possible negative impact that a nolo plea may have. The main issue is whether the plea will be admissible in the civil action.
If you have questions regarding plea agreements, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law by calling us at (205) 296-4233.