Have You Been Charged With A Serious Crime?

When can you seek “severance” if you’re charged with others?

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2024 | Criminal Law

A lot of premeditated crimes of all kinds, but largely white-collar crimes, involve multiple people. Often, these people have very different levels of culpability in the criminal activity. They may not all even know or interact with one another. One or more may be the “ringleaders,” while others may have had little if any idea that what they were doing was against the law.

Nonetheless, prosecutors often lump everyone into one case and seek to try them together. That can make things more efficient and less costly for the government, but it’s generally not in the best interests of those who had little involvement in the alleged crime.

A plea deal may be possible

If you’re in that situation, what can you do? If you have useful information to give prosecutors about others with more involvement in the criminal activity, you may be able to get a plea deal in which the charges against you are reduced or dropped and/or the criminal consequences are minimized. 

If that doesn’t apply, you may be able to seek to have your case severed from your co-defendants’. New York law allows defendants to seek severance for “good cause.” A court may “order a severance of claims, or may order a separate trial of any claim, or of any separate issue.” 

What does New York law say about severance?

To make a case for severance, a defendant typically has to show that they will be unduly prejudiced by a joint trial.” Further, because of the “scope of the pattern of criminal activity charged against all the defendants, a particular defendant’s comparatively minor role in it creates a likelihood of prejudice to him.”

A defendant typically needs to present a motion to sever before the trial begins. An exception would be if information comes to light during the trial regarding one or more other defendants that they didn’t previously have. Of course, this isn’t something you should attempt on your own. Having experienced legal guidance can help you make the best possible case for severance. This can have a significant effect on your future.