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Why Does Every Celebrity Get Probation?

Jay-Z stabbed someone at a record release party and got probation. Lindsey Lohan drove drunk, Chad Johnson was convicted of domestic violence, and each received the same: probation. T.I. tried to buy 3 machine guns and served less than 9 months. Why? Plea bargains.

Plea bargains are a necessary part of the criminal justice system as we know it. They allow the most important cases to receive the most attention and help people who may have made a mistake or done something against their usual character to get a fair result. Most importantly, plea bargains prevent the criminal courts from grinding to a stand-still. There are simply not enough judges, lawyers and courtrooms for every arrest to go all the way to trial.

Factors that Determine a Plea Bargain in Rochester

So, how does plea bargaining work? Theoretically, the prosecutor offers either a plea to a reduced charge or the promise of a reduced sentence in exchange for a plea of guilty by the defendant. A defendant and their lawyer accept the reduction, if they believe it is in the defendant's best interest. There is often times an initial offer, followed by a period of negotiation between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved in this manner. How does this negotiation work? Prosecutors consider several factors when making an offer, including:

  • Type of crime
  • Likelihood of winning at trial
  • Criminal record of the defendant
  • Age of the defendant
  • Opinion of the victim
  • The effect on public safety and welfare

Certain district attorney's offices have policies such as no reductions on DWI or gun charges. New York State Law places restrictions on certain crimes that limit the reductions that are allowed.

Does a prior criminal record affect a plea bargain offer?

Most prosecutors begin reviewing, or "screening." a case for a plea bargain by going over the defendant's criminal record. Let's face it: Most people who end up arrested and in court have done some really dumb things, probably illegal things. On the other hand, most people are generally good, and given swift consequences for an illegal action, that type of behavior will more than likely never be heard of again. They don't deserve the maximum sentence, and perhaps may not even deserve a criminal conviction. Even the most conservative prosecutors and judges would likely agree that a person should get a pretty good break the first time they are arrested. The difficult question that arises is what happens the second time, and third time? Finally, when does a person's prior record become so bad that it becomes a significant REASON to give a maximum sentence?

Evidence Is Crucial in Determining the Plea Deal

This is just one aspect of the screening process as an individual's criminal history should only be a starting point. The next consideration should be the evidence in the case. Good prosecutors know that a bad record doesn't make a good case. The stronger the evidence against the defendant, the more likely they are to plead guilty. Therefore, the better the case, the lower the reduction. On the contrary, if the evidence is very poor, for whatever reason, the offer could entail a very large reduction.

How a Rochester Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help with Plea Bargaining

Criminal history and quality of the case give the starting point for plea bargain offers. Other factors are frequently considered, but are usually secondary considerations. The negotiation process, as well as knowing whether or not to accept an offer, requires the expertise of a Rochester criminal defense attorney. If you have questions or seek assistance with your case, please contact us for a free case evaluation.