James H. Feldman, Jr., Attorney - 610-649-8200

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Plea Negotiations

One of the first critical decisions a person charged with a federal offense must make is whether to take the case to trial or to plead guilty. For some people, a trial makes sense. Most people charged with federal offenses end up pleading guilty. According to the Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center, out of the 79,356 federal convictions in 2007, 76,013 (95.8%) were the result of guilty pleas.

It is always possible (and sometimes the best option) to "plead open," i.e., to plead guilty without a plea agreement. The only time a defendant should "plead open" is when it is impossible to gain any advantage from a plea agreement. Most of the time, plea agreements offer both advantages and disadvantages. The key is to determine which option is likely to result in the shortest sentence.

Since 1989, the focus of my criminal practice has been federal plea negotiations and post conviction defense. Because I handle only a few cases at a time, I can devote the time it takes to do my best for each client. And because I have a highly focused practice, I am able to offer the quality of work normally associated with big firms, but with the personal attention and affordability expected from a small firm.

My office is located in suburban Philadelphia, but I handle plea negotiations throughout the United States.

If you or a loved one needs an attorney who regularly represents individuals in federal criminal plea negotiations, please call (610) 649-8200, or click here to send an e-mail to discuss how I can help.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are plea negotiations?

The term "plea negotiations" refers to negotiations between a defense attorney and a prosecutor concerning the conditions under which a defendant will agree to plead guilty.

What is a plea agreement?

If plea negotiations are successful, they result in a written document known as a "plea agreement." The plea agreement spells out what the prosecution and defense agreed to. It is signed by the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and the defendant.

What are some ways a plea agreement can help a defendant?

  • A plea agreement can put a cap on the possible sentence by dropping counts with higher statutory maximums.
  • Sometimes a particular count charged in an indictment will require the court to impose a mandatory minimum sentence. For example, when a statute requires a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of life imprisonment, the court must (barring a government motion) impose at least a 10-year sentence. A plea agreement can allow a defendant to plead to a charge that requires no mandatory minimum and require the government to dismiss the count that does.
  • A plea agreement can resolve sentencing guideline issues in ways that increase the chances of a lower sentence.
  • A plea agreement can include a prosecution promise to allow a defendant to cooperate in the investigation or prosecution of someone else's criminal conduct. This kind of provision within a plea agreement is called a "cooperation agreement" and can result in a much lower sentence (even a sentence below a mandatory minimum).

What are some situations in which a defendant might want to reject a plea agreement offer and plead open?

  • A defendant might want to consider rejecting a plea agreement that limits the defendant's arguments for a lower sentence without providing any significant advantage in return.
  • A defendant might want to reject a plea agreement that requires the defendant to waive appellate rights without providing any significant benefit in return.

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