Is it possible to traffic or criminal charges reduced to a lesser offense? The short answer is that it depends. Ultimately it depends on whether a prosecutor is willing to grant the reduction because a judge cannot reduce a charge in a plea negotiation. Typically, a prosecutor will ask the defense to provide a letter in mitigation explaining why a person is deserving of a reduced charge. A letter in mitigation usually includes some reference letters attesting to a person’s good character and remorse for their actions. A younger defendant should try to include letters from teachers and transcripts and documentation of school activities. In certain situations, under the advice of counsel, a letter of apology may even be appropriate.
Before asking a prosecutor for a reduced charge, you should confer with your attorney to determine what reduced charge or lesser offense you are willing to accept to resolve the case. Are you willing to take a plea on a reduced charge simply to save time and money or are there other considerations? Are the potential consequences of the current charge so severe that taking a lesser charge is the better option? Are you willing to serve a jail sentence for a lesser offense? These are questions you need to discuss with your attorney before entering into a negotiation for a reduced charge.
A prosecutor considers many factors when weighing a request for a lesser offense. One example is when the prosecution’s case is not very strong and so the government may be more inclined to offer a lesser charge to resolve a case more quickly in order to avoid a trial. The prosecution may also be motivated to reduce a charge if there’s an uncooperative witness who refuses to testify in a trial. If there’s an injured party, then the prosecution will normally consult with the complainant before offering a reduced charge. In a case involving property damage, a prosecutor may require that restitution be paid upfront as a condition for a lesser charge. Also, expressing a willingness to undergo counseling or treatment in certain circumstances can be very persuasive. Finally, a person’s lack of criminality and age can also be strong factors in mitigation that will and should be considered. In the end, getting your charges reduced is never a guarantee but it is often worthwhile to have an experienced attorney pursue such a resolution