New York Criminal Defense Attorneys know that the criminal justice system is coercive, often resulting in people who are afraid of the consequences or stuck in jail to plead guilty to things that may not have actually occurred. Plea bargains must be entered into voluntarily. A plea cannot be coerced from a defendant by improper means, whether physically coerced or coerced by the threat of punishment for taking the case to trial and obtaining a guilty verdict on a lesser charge. Not a television drama, criminal defense attorneys advise their clients of their options, weighing the evidence and the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. While being found guilty of a lesser included charge may result in jail time (or an alternative sentence), a judge cannot comment that the defendant will have a certain fixed sentence after jury trial as opposed to a range of sentence for a crime of which he or she has not been convicted.
While we do not know the facts and circumstances of this case, the Fourth Department allowed a defendant to withdraw his guilty plea:
During discussions over the plea offer, the court addressed the possibility of a jury convicting defendant of the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree by stating: “[Y]ou wouldn’t get any better than 25 [years] if you get a manslaughter. That’s a big ‘if.'”…”[T]he court’s statements do not amount to a description of the range of potential sentences but, rather, they constitute impermissible coercion, rendering the plea involuntary and requiring its vacatur” (People v. Kelley, 114 AD3d 1229, 1230 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see People v. Boyde, 122 AD3d 1302, 1302-1303).
Do not be forced to enter a guilty plea. Contact a criminal defense attorney and evaluate your options. Call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris: 631-450-2515.
People v. Williams, KA 14-00717, NYLJ 1202772393196, at *1 (App. Div., 4th, Decided November 10, 2016)