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Plea negotiation results in probation for rental property owner

Memphis readers may be surprised to find out that a person doesn't have to commit an unlawful act in order to be charged with an offense. Criminal charges can also result when a person allegedly fails to do something, so long as that person had a duty to do so. Under these circumstances, a strong criminal defense is necessary.

A recent story in the news illustrates how a failure to act can result in criminal liability. In 2010, there was a fire at a rental property that resulted in the deaths of four residents. It was alleged that the owner knew that the building had faulty wiring yet failed to make the necessary repairs. As a result, she was charged with four counts of manslaughter with a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years for each count.

Fortunately for the property owner, her defense attorney was able to convince the prosecution that while the woman had known that wiring repairs were needed, she was not aware of the extent of the problem. Due to this, and the fact that she had cooperated with authorities throughout the investigation and was in poor health, the prosecution agreed to reduce the charges after a plea deal was reached.

Instead of being charged with manslaughter, prosecutors offered the property owner to plead guilty to an amended charge of causing widespread injury by failing to make necessary repair. As a result, the woman will receive probation.

It is important for people in similar situations to have a skilled criminal defense attorney negotiate with prosecutors on their behalf in an attempt to reduce any charges brought against them. It is possible that a prosecutor will agree to allow the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for a more lenient sentence. A plea bargain is also beneficial because it allows the accused to avoid a stressful criminal trial.

Source:, "Paterson building owner charged in fatal fire gets probation in plea deal," John Petrick, Jan. 2, 2013

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