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Why Most Criminal Cases Settle Before Trial

On Behalf of | Dec 21, 2018 | Criminal Law

Criminal cases rarely go to trial. On average, between 95 and 98% of criminal cases resolve before trial. Resolution can include

  • dismissal of charges,
  • diversion,
  • a reduction of charges, or
  • a plea in exchange for an agreed upon sentence.


Dismissal of the criminal charges does not happen often, but it does happen. Part of a criminal defense attorney’s job is reviewing the evidence to ensure the government has complied with the law. For example, police are not permitted to pull someone over for no reason. If they stop a car without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the evidence subsequently discovered will be suppressed by the court. This often results in the dismissal of cases. There are other constitutional challenges that may also be raised.


In New York, some defendants have the opportunity to participate in a diversion program. This program “diverts” people out of the traditional criminal justice path. While they enter a plea of guilty, the court does not immediately sentence the person. Instead, the court orders the diversion participant to complete certain tasks, such as attending a class or performing community service. Upon completion of the program, the charges can be reduced or dismissed.


Sometimes, a constitutional challenge will result in the suppression of some but not all of the evidence. With a weaker case, the prosecution may be more inclined to reduce the charges in an attempt to resolve the matter prior to trial. Additionally, sometimes the defense attorney can negotiate a reduced charge, based on information they glean from their client. Sometimes, a criminal defense attorney will advise their client to take proactive steps, such as entering treatment or taking an educational class, which can impact plea negotiations favorably.


Plea agreements sometimes result in reduced charges. However, other times, a plea agreement results in an agreement on a sentence. This limits the amount of jail time, for example, a prosecutor may ask for. With an agreed-upon sentence, both the prosecution and the defense know what the potential consequences to a plea will be. With a trial, the court decides the punishment, which may be greater than the consequence negotiated and agreed to by the parties.


When someone is facing criminal charges, it can be a very scary time. Having an attorney well versed in criminal defense is critical to providing peace of mind.

Trials have risks to both sides. Oftentimes, both the government and the defendant feel their interests and needs are best met by coming to a resolution short of risking it all in a trial. If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney, contact the law firm of Frost & Kavanaugh. Arthur Frost has the criminal defense experience you need. Call today for a consultation at (518) 730-4222.