Negotiation in Plea Bargaining

Being charged with a crime is a tough reality to face. Feelings of anxiety about how your case will proceed can be overwhelming. The charge as it stands as well as the associated penalties you may face may be even more severe than you expected. Fortunately, charges can change and what you are initially charged with may not be exactly what you end up being charged with. Charges and penalties are often reduced via plea bargaining, among other ways.

A plea bargain is a kind of compromise between you, the accused, and the prosecutor. Not only is plea bargaining common, but the court system relies on it to help move through an already oversaturated docket of cases. When a plea bargain is achieved, the prosecutor will offer something like a lower criminal charge or lesser sentence in exchange for you pleading guilty to the criminal charge and, thus, waiving your right to a trial by jury. By settling the matter out of court, everyone is spared the stress and uncertainty of trial. The court and prosecution save state resources in avoiding a full-blown criminal trial. It can often be a mutually beneficial arrangement for all involved.

Negotiation in Plea Bargaining

While a plea bargain may not always be an ideal solution, it can often be a great alternative to avoiding the potential conviction of a more severe criminal charge at trial. Additionally, accepting a plea bargain spares you the stress of a trial and avoiding court and legal fees as well. A plea bargain allows the prosecution and defense to quickly settle the case. The prosecution avoids going to trial, and you, the defendant, avoid the risk of a more severe penalty if convicted by a jury at trial.

There are different types of plea agreements. A charge bargain, for instance, allows the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge or to fewer charges than that which they were indicted for. A sentence bargain, on the other hand, provides the defendant with advance notice of what the sentence will be should a guilty plea be offered. Sentence bargaining usually occurs in cases where the defendant is being charged with really serious crimes. In most cases, the judge must approve of the sentence bargain. Many jurisdictions have strict limits in place for sentence bargaining.

There is another type of plea agreement that exists, but it is not used nearly as often as charge bargains or sentence bargains. Fact bargaining involves the defendant admitting to certain facts in return for an agreement from the prosecution not to introduce other specified facts into evidence. The admission made by the defendant means that the defendant is stipulating the truth or the existence of provable facts. Stipulating these facts eliminates the need for the prosecutor to have to prove them in court. In exchange, other facts may be excluded from the evidence that may prove less favorable in some way to the defendant’s case.

Syracuse Criminal Defense Attorneys

Negotiating a plea bargain takes skill and experience. That is what you will find with the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at CDH Law. Contact us today.

Impairing the Credibility of a Witness

At a criminal trial, the prosecutor is likely to have a list of witnesses to put on the stand in order to provide testimony against the defendant. Witness testimony can be powerful and help the prosecutor meet the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Fortunately, however, there are several ways of negating or at least reducing the impact witness testimony can have on a judge or jury. One such way is by impairing, or “impeaching,” the credibility of a witness. You see, the defendant has a constitutionally protected right to challenge witnesses for the prosecution. The defense attorney has the right to cross-examine every witness the prosecution presents. The defense attorney can impeach a witness’s credibility in order to show that the witness is unreliable or untrustworthy.

Impairing the Credibility of a Witness

When a witness is impeached, and credibility is called into question, the force of the witness’s testimony can be eliminated or, at the very least, significantly reduced. The credibility of a witness can be impaired due to a number of reasons. It could be shown that the witness is potentially lying on the stand, which would mean that the witness was committing the offense of perjury. Alternatively, it could be suggested that, while the witness may try to tell the truth, the witness is not recalling facts accurately. It could also be possible that the witness is being selective in the testimony being provided, omitting certain details while emphasizing others, for example.

In order to impair the credibility of a witness, it is unlikely that a defense attorney will ask the witness directly if the testimony is dishonest or inaccurate. Alternatively, a defense attorney is likely to employ a number of strategies to have such things revealed in other ways, such as calling a witness’s character into question or otherwise challenging the accuracy of the testimony being presented.

One commonly employed tactic for undermining the credibility of a witness is for the defense to present evidence of bias. When bias or even potential bias on the part of a witness is introduced, the witness’s capacity for telling the truth is called into question. Bias can be shown in a number of ways, including presenting evidence of a witness’s relationship to a party involved in the case. When a witness’s personal feelings towards a person are considered, the testimony relating to that individual can be undermined.

The credibility of a witness may also be questioned if it can be shown that the witness has ulterior motives for the testimony provided. A witness, for instance, may have a personal interest in the outcome of the case and may even be under threat of being criminally charged as well. The defense team has the right to question a witness about any criminal charges that may have recently been dismissed or if there is an agreement in place between the witness and the prosecution.

Syracuse Criminal Defense Attorneys

At CDH Law, our dedicated team of criminal defense attorneys is here to fight for you against all charges you may face. Contact us today.

The Alibi Defense

If you have been charged with a crime, it can be easy to lose hope. It can seem like you are up against a system that has already condemned you. Now, however, is not the time to give up. There is too much at stake and there may be many ways for you to successfully beat that criminal charge or, at least, to have that charge significantly reduced. The criminal defense strategy that may be most effective will largely depend on the specific facts and circumstances. One such strategy may involve asserting an alibi defense. Here, we will go over more details about the alibi defense and how to successfully assert it in your criminal case.

The Alibi Defense

With the alibi defense, a defendant is basically saying that, considering the information presented, it has been demonstrated that he or she was not or could not have been at the scene of the crime at the time when the crime occurred. As such, the defendant was elsewhere and, therefore, could not have been the person who perpetrated the crime. The prosecutor and the court, however, are not likely to take this defense at face value. Proof will be needed to support and substantiate such a defense claim.

The good news is that a defendant is able to proffer an alibi defense and maintain his or her constitutional right to remain silent, otherwise known as the right against self-incrimination. Having the defendant testify to an alibi defense is not required for the defense to be successfully asserted. There are many other ways that an alibi defense can be supported. You may be wondering though why a defendant would not want to testify personally to an alibi defense. There may be a number of reasons for this. Once a defendant is on the witness stand, he or she can be questioned on a wide range of matters, including other crimes that the defendant may be facing charges for. Being put on the witness stand also opens up the defendant to credibility attacks launched by the prosecutor. Prior convictions could be brought up and the alibi defense could be severely undermined.

The alibi defense can still be successfully supported by other witnesses and evidence even without the defendant testifying to its validity. Witnesses who saw the defendant at another location at the time of the crime could testify. Video recordings putting the defendant in a different location could also be presented as could things such as sign-in sheets, receipts, and other pieces of evidence putting the defendant at another location.

As with other defense strategies, the strength of an alibi defense will depend on the strength of the evidence presented to support it. Not all evidence will carry the same weight. For instance, a friend or family testifying to the defendant’s whereabouts may not carry the same weight as someone with no relationship to the defendant who testifies to seeing the defendant elsewhere. Also, purely objective pieces of evidence may be given more weight in supporting an alibi. This is why things like video footage, photographs, and GPS records can be significant pieces of evidence in supporting an alibi defense.

Syracuse Criminal Defense Attorneys

The criminal defense team at CDH Law is prepared to tirelessly defend you against all criminal charges. Time, however, is of the essence. Contact us today.

Asserting Self-Defense for a Violent Crime Charge

When charged with a crime, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. This is a pillar of the U.S. justice system. Just because the burden of proof initially rests squarely on the prosecutor’s shoulders, however, does not mean that the defense team should sit back and wait to see just how strong of a case the prosecutor can present without taking action to weaken that case in any way possible. The defense strategy will largely rest on the nature of the crime, the circumstances surrounding the crime, and other relevant factors. One commonly employed defense strategy when the crime is one that is violent in nature is for the defendant to assert self-defense. Certain things must be accomplished in order to effectively assert self-defense when the defendant is charged with a violent crime.

How to Effectively Assert Self-Defense When Charged with a Violent Crime 

Self-defense is considered to be an affirmative defense. This means that the defendant is essentially saying that the action the prosecutor is accusing him or her of taking did, in fact, happen, but it should not be considered illegal because of extenuating circumstances. In cases where the defendant is charged with a violent crime, such as assault or battery, the defendant may assert self-defense, which is a claim that yes, they committed a violent act, but it should not be considered illegal because the defendant was defending himself or herself from an imminent threat of harm.

In order to effectively assert self-defense, however, the defendant carries the initial burden of proving that the defense is substantial. This means that the defense team must show that there was an actual and imminent danger or risk of harm to the defendant which would justify the defendant using physical force to neutralize the threat.  Once the defense is raised by the defense, the prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not acting in self-defense.

Under the New York Penal Code, self-defense is also known as “justification.” When self-defense is successfully asserted, the defendant is justified in using physical force to defend himself or herself. New York law says that this is the case when a person reasonably believes it is necessary to defend himself or herself against the use or imminent use of physical force by another person.

The use of force against another in the name of self-defense, however, must be proportional to the imminent threat of force. Only that level of force reasonably necessary to neutralize the threat of imminent harm is permissible pursuant to self-defense. If an aggressor was moving in to punch you and you pulled out a knife on your attacker, this is likely to be seen as a disproportionate reaction to the imminent threat and, therefore, is not likely to be covered under a self-defense assertion.

Furthermore, the fact that New York is a “duty to retreat” state can create another big obstacle in successfully asserting self-defense. The duty to retreat means that, prior to acting in self-defense, a person is obligated to take reasonable measures in order to reduce the threat of harm. This may include running away or calling law enforcement. Duty to retreat states are the opposite of “stand your ground” states which place no duty to retreat in the face of a physical threat.

Syracuse Criminal Defense Attorneys

Are you facing a criminal charge? Time is of the essence. Do not hesitate to get in touch with the dedicated criminal defense team at CDH Law. Contact us today.

Isn’t Pleading Not Guilty the Best Defense Strategy?

When you are facing criminal charges, your mind can scramble to process what is going on and what will happen to you. You will likely want to know in as much detail as possible what your options are for proceeding and what the defense strategy would look like should your case go to trial. You may think that asserting innocence will be enough. You are innocent until proven guilty in the U.S. criminal justice system after all, right? Well, yes, this is true, but a sound defense strategy will involve more than you simply pleading to your innocence on the witness stand.

Isn’t Pleading Not Guilty the Best Defense Strategy?

There is the presumption of innocence in criminal cases. A defendant is declared innocent until and unless the prosecution can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Merely asserting innocence, however, is a big gamble that no criminal defense attorney would risk. It has to be more than a mere assertion. The prosecution will continue to paint and try to support a case that the defendant is guilty of beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense, on the other hand, should work to bring as much supporting evidence to cast guilt into doubt and to support the assertion of innocence.

Supporting an assertion of innocence can be accomplished in a number of ways. For instance, an alibi defense can be solid grounds for supporting a claim of innocence. With an alibi defense, the defendant claims that he or she could not have possibly committed the crime in question because he or she was elsewhere and doing something else at the time the crime occurred. To support an alibi, witnesses as to the defendant’s whereabouts at the time of the crime may be presented as well as security camera footage of the defendant at a different location or something like a receipt showing that the defendant was at a different location at the time the crime was committed.

In addition to supporting a claim of innocence through alibi evidence, the defense team is often best served by pursuing ways to undermine the strength of the prosecution. Casting doubt on the prosecution’s claims and undermining the strength of any evidence the prosecution may present in the case can go to great lengths in undermining the prosecution’s pursuit of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Undermining the prosecution’s case can be accomplished through things such as the presentation of witnesses and expert witnesses that present a different perspective than those produced by the prosecution’s witnesses. It can also be accomplished when cross-examining a witness and undermining the witness’s credibility. Additionally, there are ways to seek exclusion of evidence the prosecution wishes to use in its case. In criminal cases, constitutional violations made by law enforcement officers against the defendant can lead to significant pieces of evidence being declared inadmissible at trial.

Syracuse Criminal Defense Attorneys

Have you been charged with a crime? There is too much at stake to delay. Talk to the dedicated criminal defense team at CDH Law. Contact us today.

How to Use Constitutional Violation in Your Defense

While being charged with a crime can be overwhelming, to say the least, it can be important not to lose hope. There may be a variety of criminal defense strategies available that can lead to things like your charges being reduced or even tossed out altogether. One of the most effective strategies, should it be relevant to a particular case, is the defense strategy which uses constitutional violations. You see, all of us have guaranteed protections under the U.S. Constitution. This holds true regardless of whether or not you are being charged with a crime. In fact, it remains true regardless of whether or not you are guilty of a particular crime. When constitutional violations occur, there are consequences that can have significant impacts on your criminal case intended to help rectify the violation.

How to Use a Constitutional Violation in Your Defense

It may surprise you, or it may not, to find that constitutional violations are particularly common when criminal charges and criminal trials are concerned. The relevant violations can occur from the point of arrest, through gathering evidence, and all the way through trial. When effectively pinpointed and asserted, a constitutional violation can lead to critical evidence or a confession being thrown out. Because the burden rests on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, key evidence or a confession being tossed out can often lead to a significant weakening in the prosecution’s case which can, in turn, lead to charges being dropped or reduced. Furthermore, constitutional violations can also be grounds for successfully bringing an appeal. 

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guards against unlawful search and seizure. Although there are exceptions, in order for law enforcement to conduct a search of a home or a vehicle, a warrant or probable cause to conduct the search is required. Without probable cause, a warrant, or an exception to the warrant requirement, the search will likely be declared unconstitutional. As a result, it is likely that evidence obtained as a result of the illegal search will be deemed inadmissible at trial. Again, having evidence declared inadmissible can have significant impacts on the prosecution’s case. In fact, it can even lead a prosecutor to drop charges or reduce the criminal charge substantially.

The Fifth Amendment is the right a person has against self-incrimination. It is the founding basis for Miranda warnings. Law enforcement is required to read the defendant his or her Miranda rights during the arrest if they intend to ask questions of the defendant. This includes informing the defendant of the right to remain silent and that anything he or she does or says can be held against him or her in court. If a defendant provides evidence or a confession after arrest and in response to interrogation, and law enforcement failed to read Miranda warnings, then all of it can be deemed inadmissible. Again, this can lead to charges being dropped, an acquittal, or a successful basis for filing an appeal.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

Have you been charged with a crime? Do not hesitate to talk to the trusted team at CDH Law. Contact us today.

What Civil Liberties Do Felons Lose?

Crimes are categorized based on the severity of the offense. At the top are felonies. Felony crimes are considered to be crimes of a very serious nature and the consequences for a felony conviction are correlated with the severity of such crimes. The New York legal code considers felonies to be those crimes that are punishable by death or a period of imprisonment exceeding one year in duration. New York is notoriously tough on crime and prosecutors will work tirelessly and with the full weight and resource of the government to secure felony convictions.

Those convicted of felonies stand to lose a great deal. Yes, they will face steep fines and extended periods of incarceration. Convicted felons also face the stigma of eventually being released into a society that will often view them with great mistrust and trepidation. Not only will a felony conviction on a person’s record jeopardize his or her employment prospected and housing options, but a convicted felon may have trouble even doing such things as opening a checking or savings account at a financial institution. On top of all of this, felons will lose certain civil liberties upon conviction. We will talk more about this loss or rights here.

What Civil Liberties Do Felons Lose?

While the specific civil liberties and right to restore civil liberties lost upon a felony conviction will vary from state to state, some rights will be lost forever and some may be restored. In the state of New York, a convicted felon will lose several of the rights and privileges that are granted to American citizens, also known as “civil liberties” or “civil rights.” For instance, the general rule in New York is that you can no longer vote after incarceration or while on parole or probation due to a felony conviction. Once you have completed your sentence, however, your voting rights are automatically restored. You will still need to re-register in order to get access to this restored right but doing so will not require any special documentation. This automatic restoration of a felon’s right to vote is very new to New York. In fact, Governor Cuomo signed the legislation that granted felons automatic restoration of the right to vote in all elections back on May 4th of 2021.

In addition to losing the right to vote, those with felony convictions in New York are also prevented from being able to legally buy and possess firearms. This right may be restored by a pardon. Alternatively, the right may be restored by a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or Good Conduct. Otherwise, the bar on the right to purchase a firearm will stand indefinitely.

There are several other rights a person will lose upon conviction of a felony. For instance, he or she will no longer be able to sit on a jury. He or she will be excluded from welfare as well as being barred from obtaining federally funded housing. Those convicted of felonies also face exclusion from obtaining certain professional and operator licenses.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

You do not have to let a felony charge turn into a felony conviction. Too much is at stake to try and go it alone. Get the dedicated criminal defense team at CDH law on your side. We will fight for you. Contact us today.

What Is Hearsay?

“Objection! Hearsay!” Have you heard this shouted in some of your favorite TV legal dramas? Most of us have. What exactly, however, does this mean? Hearsay refers to a central rule of evidence and a complicated one at that. While conversationally, people may refer to hearsay as secondhand information, the implications in the legal world are much deeper than that. Let’s take a deeper look here at what hearsay actually means.

What Is Hearsay?

It can be important to understand hearsay, at least in part, as it can play a central role in the admissibility of key evidence at trial. Statements deemed to be hearsay will be considered inadmissible in court. So, what is hearsay? It is an out-of-court statement used to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Huh? Yes, do not worry. The hearsay rule is confusing and something that law students and lawyers alike have grappled with.

To understand hearsay, it can be important to go back to the reason the hearsay rule exists, the reason why hearsay is often considered inadmissible. The hearsay rule is in place because hearsay can be so unreliable. Statements made under oath in court that can be cross-examined by attorneys are considered to be more reliable than statements made outside of the courtroom where the validity of the statement would be difficult to challenge effectively.

Hearsay comes up when a witness presents evidence of a statement made by someone else that is offered in order to prove the truth of the matter asserted. A statement can be either oral or written. The most complicated part of hearsay to understand is whether the statement is offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. This means that a statement relayed by a witness may be inadmissible hearsay if offered for one purpose, but not for another purpose. In this situation, the judge will admit the hearsay if offered for a different purpose and instruct the jury accordingly.

Hearsay is seen as problematic because the witness is relaying a statement made outside of court, said by someone else. The reliability of the statement is not something that can be credited to the witness. The reliability of the statement rests with the person who said it, who is not on the witness stand under oath.

As a general rule, as previously stated, hearsay is inadmissible evidence in court. There are, however, a variety of hearsay exceptions where a statement deemed to be hearsay will be admissible in court. If an attorney makes a hearsay objection, a statement is deemed to be hearsay, and there are no applicable exceptions, the judge will not allow the statement into evidence. One of the most significant hearsay exceptions is the party admission exception. With this exception, one side can offer statements made by the opposing party. This remains true even if the opposing party made the statements out of court.

Syracuse Criminal Defense Attorneys

Confused? Yes, hearsay and many other criminal law and rules of evidence tend to send peoples’ minds spinning. Our knowledgeable criminal defense team at CDH law is well versed in the laws and procedures that impact our clients. We use our experience and understanding to fight for them. Contact us today.

How to Appeal in a Criminal Case

If you have been convicted of a crime and sentenced, you may feel defeated and without hope. There may be, however, several different ways for you to challenge your conviction. One such way is through a criminal appeal.

How to Appeal in a Criminal Case

The court you appeal your case to will depend on several factors, including the level of crime of which you have been convicted. You see, there are different court levels in New York. The trial courts form the lowest level. They are considered to be the finders of fact. Convictions and sentences are made at the trial court level. At the appellate level, the courts are not tasked with fact-finding, but they do review the legal decisions rendered at the trial court level.

If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you can file an appeal of your conviction in the local county court. If you were convicted of a felony, you can take your appeal to the Appellate Division. Which of the four Appellate Divisions will hear your case depends on your county. Furthermore, you may be able to appeal your case to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. While a criminal defendant does not have the automatic right to take a case to the Court of Appeals, he or she may be and must be granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals. Be forewarned, however, that most of the applications made to the Court of Appeals to hear a case are denied. Approved applications are generally reserved for those cases where an important question of law arises or there was a dissenting opinion in the court decision below.

To appeal your New York criminal court conviction, you must file your notice of appeal. Not only must this notice of appeal be properly drafted, but it must also be filed in a timely manner, and served. The notice of appeal, which memorializes in writing your intent to appeal your conviction, is different from an appellate brief that will be later filed and present your arguments to raise on appeal. It must be served within 30 days of your sentencing and failure to meet this deadline could mean dismissal of your appeal. It should be noted that it is generally a good idea to go ahead and file a notice of appeal before the allotted time runs out even if you are unsure as to whether you really want to appeal. Should you later decide not to appeal, no harm is done by simply filing the notice. Timely filing the notice, however, keeps the option open for you.

Your notice of appeal must include your name as well as the docket number or indictment number associated with the case you are appealing. It should also indicate which court you are appealing from and whether the appeal is seeking to address the judgment or sentence or both handed down by the trial court. Two copies of the notice of appeal must be filed with the clerk of the criminal court in which your sentence was imposed and you must have acopy served on the prosecutor.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

Talk to the knowledgeable criminal defense team at CDH law about your options for post-conviction relief. That guilty verdict does not have to be the end of the road. CDH Law is here for you. Contact us today.

What Is the Burden of Proof in a Criminal Case?

The burden of proof, regardless of whether it is a civil suit or a criminal trial, is the burden that the prosecution or plaintiff must meet in order to be successful in the legal pursuit at hand. For prosecutors in a criminal case, they are looking to meet the burden of proof in order to secure a guilty verdict. The burden of proof they carry, however, is the highest one in U.S. law. Here, we will talk more about the burden of proof in a criminal case.

What Is the Burden of Proof in a Criminal Case?

Criminal defendants facing any level of charge, from misdemeanors to felonies, are all innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the legal system. It may not feel like it as you confront this system, but it remains a fundamental standard of U.S. law. In order to prove a defendant guilty of criminal conduct, the prosecution must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The beyond a reasonable doubt burden of proof is the highest standard of proof there is and with good reason. The potential penalties a person faces when confronted with a criminal charge are steep and can result in loss of personal freedoms, civil liberties, assets, and so much more.

Proving that a defendant committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt means that each individual element of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. While the beyond a reasonable doubt burden is meant to be steep, it is by no means meant to be an impossible burden for the prosecution to carry. The prosecution is not meant to have to dispel any possible doubt. The burden itself says that only “reasonable” doubt must be eliminated to be successful.

The burden of proof starts and may very well stay with the prosecution. This, however, depends on other things at play during trial, such as the defense strategy. If the defense team asserts an affirmative defense, the burden of proof will shift momentarily  to the defense. An affirmative defense is one where the defense essentially says “Yes, but…” The defense is saying that the defendant may have engaged in the conduct alleged by the prosecution, but it was not criminal (or deserves a lesser criminal charge) because of extenuating circumstances. One of the most commonly mentioned affirmative defenses is self-defense when the defendant has been charged with a violent crime. In this example, the defense would be saying that the defendant’s behavior was justified and not criminal because he or she was defending himself or herself against an aggressor.

Should an affirmative defense be asserted, the burden of proof shifts to the defense. The burden in successfully asserting an affirmative defense will vary based on jurisdiction. Often, it is a preponderance of the evidence standard. The defense must prove through the presentation of reliable evidence that the affirmative defense is valid. This burden of proof is, of course, not as heavy as the beyond a reasonable doubt standard.  Once the burden of proof is carried to assert the defense, then the burden shifts back to the prosecution to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

There may be a great deal of legal jargon thrown your way if you face criminal charges. While it can be overwhelming, it can also be important to understand your rights and what you are up against. The criminal defense team at CDH Law can provide you with trusted legal guidance as well as a fierce defense in any criminal matter you may face. Contact us today.