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Why do so many criminal cases result in a guilty plea?

As a State College criminal defense attorney, I have represented countless individuals who were charged with crimes here in Centre County, PA and in many other counties throughout the Commonwealth. The crimes charged have ranged from minor summary offenses to DUI’s, major drug cases, and violent felonies. Every case presents unique challenges both in terms of the legal and factual questions involved and the particular goals and concerns of my clients. Some clients turn to me for representation in situations where they feel that they were wrongfully accused of a crime. Manymore turn to me wishing to take responsibility for the act or acts that they have been charged with and ask that I focus on minimizing the penalties. In all situations, I consider it my responsibility to get to know my client, understand their concerns, and work towards a resolution of the case that directed towards mitigating the impact that the criminal charges will have on my client’s life and the life of their family and loved ones.

For many people who turn to my office for representation in connection with criminal charges, the only experience they have with the criminal justice system is what they see on TV in shows like “Law & Order.” While I am a big fan of the “crime drama” genre, television shows like Law & Order misrepresent the day-to-day business of criminaldefense. Why? Because on TV, every single case is tried to a jury. In fact, the vast majority of criminal cases-upwards, in my experience, of 90%– are resolved through plea negotiations. But why is this?There exists a romanticized notion that criminal defense attorneys are in the business of representing people who have been wrongfully accused of crimes. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. While it may seem like a strange thing for an attorney who has devoted his career to representing criminal defendants to say, the truth is that the vast majority of individuals who have been charged with a crime did commit some crime. However, in many cases the charges people are facing do not fit the individual’s actions.

Take, for instance, a situation where an individual is searched by police and heroin is recovered from their pocket. Depending on the way the heroin was packaged and whether or not the person also possessed instruments for ingesting heroin, that person might face charges for possession of heroin with the intent to deliver, a far more serious crime than merely possessing heroin for personal use (often, if no instruments for using heroin are found along with the heroin itself, it leads law enforcement to conclude that the person intended to distribute the heroin instead of use it themselves). If after analyzing the facts and circumstances of the search an experienced criminal defense attorney concludes that the search of the defendant was lawful, there is essentially no viable defense to a charge of possession– Police lawfully searched the individual, packages were recovered from the individual’s front pocket where there can be no question that the individual had the intent and ability to control the packages, and the substance in the packages tested positive for the presence of heroin. And because no paraphernalia for heroin was use was found on the individual, law enforcement formed the opinion that the heroin was for distribution. So what can be done?

At Rehmeyer & Allatt, an experienced State College criminal defense attorney would review this case and attempt to demonstrate to the satisfaction of a prosecutor that the heroin possessed was for personal use. Perhaps the individual has a history of commitments for rehab or previous arrests related to drug use and/or addiction. While there can be no question that the person committed a crime by possessing heroin, an effective advocate will attempt to mitigate the repercussions and, where possible, secure a plea for misdemeanor possession instead of felony distribution. Much of the work a criminal defense attorney does is done behind the scenes to mitigate charges and penalties in order to secure plea agreements that both sides can live with. While effective advocacy at trial is essential to success as a criminal defense attorney, so is effective plea negotiation.

As a criminal defense attorney in State College, many of my cases involve this type of work. Unfortunately, bar fights are often charged as a felony aggravated assault where simple assault would be appropriate. Trespassing cases are often charged as burglaries, and the list goes on.

At Rehmeyer & Allatt, we believe in an honest, client driven approach to resolving criminal cases that takes into account the goals of each and every client. For some, the possibility of a driver’s license suspension is of greater concern than a period of probation. For others, a license suspension is of no consequence but a lengthy period of probation would seriously inconvenience the client. In all cases, understanding our client’s goals and working towards a resolution that allows our clients to move forward with their lives is our number one priority. While in some cases the only option may be to take a case to trial, in many cases, working out a plea agreement is often the best alternative.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, the State College Criminal Defense Attorney’s at Rehmeyer & Allatt invite you to call our office for a free consultation. We will explore all options and determine the best way to move forward.