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Plea Agreements


What are plea agreements? A plea agreement is like a contract between two parties. In consideration of the deal, the service or the product is provided. Well, in criminal law that doesn’t really happen!

The usual “Plea Agreement” (contract) between the defendant and the Government is that in exchange for the defendant to plea to specific charges and waive appeal the Government promises not to proceed on new charges or current charges not pled. Whoopee!

To be frank about it – a plea agreement is coercion. For instance: the factual base required to enter into a plea may be what the government believes and not reality, or the base term that is necessary to exceed to appeal is usually unrealistic.

That “appellate waiver” means that unless the court sentenced you to some term that exceeds the agreed appellate term, you waive any rights to appeal. Say you enter a plea agreement that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years (you are worried that the government would file an 851 Information (a prior drug conviction) that would double your 10 years to 20 years), so you take the plea agreement. However, the appellate waiver is for 20 years, and the Government corresponding waiver is for 15 years, what gives? What gives is that the court is placed on notice (that is hinted by the plea agreement) to impose a sentence of 15 years and not the 10 years you thought!

Plea agreements are sometimes good and sometimes very, very bad. Be careful!

Author: Errol Stambler

Author: Errol Stambler

Errol Stambler’s nearly 30 years’ experience representing criminal defendants in state and federal courts – together with his expertise as a California State Bar Certified Criminal Law Specialist — enables him to craft a knowledgeable and compelling criminal defense for a wide variety of prosecutions, including white-collar crime, HUD fraud, drugs and narcotics, juvenile indictments, gang-related activities, tax evasion, and a myriad of other federal charges.

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