Resolving a criminal case often involves a Negotiated Plea, or as it is probably more commonly known, a plea agreement. A Negotiated Plea (or plea agreement) is when the prosecutor offers the defendant a deal to plead guilty or no contest to the offense in exchange for some reduction in the criminal charges or sentence.
A plea agreement regarding charges involves a defendant pleaing guilty or no contest to a lesser charge, or have some of the charges removed in exchange for an admission of guilt or no contest on the main charge.
A plea agreement regarding sentencing takes place when a defendant, knowing in advance both the maximum penalties for all criminal charges and what the sentence will be if he or she pleads guilty, is offered a deal regarding certain, usually lesser, sanctions in return for a guilty plea, and is punished only for these charges and subsequently avoids the maximum penalty for the original charges.
Criminal defendants offered a plea agreement should always consult with a criminal defense attorney before accepting it. The possibility always exists that a defense attorney may have the ability to get the criminal charges reduced or dropped before any Negotiated Plea. More importantly, defendants must make sure they understand every term of the plea agreement and clearly acknowledge all of their obligations thereunder.
A plea agreement requires the Court’s approval. Typically, if the court does not approve the agreement, a defendant is instantly entitled to withdraw the plea.
Occasionally, even though he or she agreed to it, a defendant may be unhappy with the negotiated plea. The rules provide for a withdrawal of the plea, if requested within 30 days and if other requirements are met to the Court’s satisfaction.
Prosecution’s Failure To Honor Plea
Florida appeals courts have stated that when the prosecution fails to honor a plea agreement, “the violation of the agreement is akin to a breach of contract for which the defendant is entitled to seek a remedy.” Thus, if the prosecutor fails to uphold the state’s end of the agreement, defense counsel may file a complaint to force the prosecution to comply or to have the plea bargain set aside.
If you are a potential defendant in a criminal case and have questions about a possible plea agreement, call Alan Fowler, an experienced Key West criminal defense attorney, for a consultation at 305.912.2516.