The Art of Negotiating a Plea Agreement

Sarissa Montague

There has recently been a lot of talk in the national news about celebrities charged with crimes.

Jussie Smollett and Robert Kraft have become household names, but not necessarily for reasons that they would prefer. Each of them has been charged with committing crimes and each of them has been given the opportunity to have their charges dismissed.

There has been public outcry, a concern that they are being treated differently because they are celebrities. I cannot comment on the specifics of their cases if in fact they are getting treated differently because they are celebrities, but I can comment on the criminal justice system as a whole.

The fact is that in every case a person charged with a crime is given a plea offer of some sort. There is a wide range of possible plea offers including an offer for a complete dismissal of all of the charges up to an insistence on a guilty plea to all of the charges the defendant is facing and accepting the maximum penalty. Between those two extremes are limitless options.

It is the job of a skilled criminal defense attorney to work to get the best plea offer possible for his/her client – doing so gives the accused a real option: accept the terms of a plea offer that he/she can live with or go to trial. This is the defendant’s option, but with a skilled attorney on his/her side at least there is a reasonable choice.

There are many factors that a prosecutor considers when making a plea offer, and there are equally as many factors that a defense attorney considers when making a counteroffer or advising a client on accepting an offer made. Because there is such a huge range of potential outcomes in any given situation it is very important that a person charged with a crime work with an attorney who is effective both inside, and outside, of a courtroom.

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