Plea bargaining in federal cases is not exactly the same as reaching a plea deal in a state case. There are different laws and rules that introduce certain considerations in federal cases. In addition, federal judges have wide discretion when it comes to imposing the actual sentence. Here are some important considerations for plea bargaining in federal cases.
A Deal Is Not Always Final
In the recent federal case where Michael Flynn entered into a plea deal in which prosecutors recommended no jail time at sentencing, the unpredictable nature of federal judges surfaced. The sentencing had to be postponed for several months because Flynn's attorneys realized that the judge was about to sentence him to prison time notwithstanding the recommendation of the government.
Defendants should always be aware of the possibility that the sentence range was agreed to by the government and is just a recommendation for the judge who retains discretion to impose the sentence that they see fit considering the prosecution's recommendation.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines Still Apply
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines still apply to federal cases. While these are no longer mandatory in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Booker, they still are advisory.
Judges will still give great consideration to the Sentencing Guidelines since these were mandatory for over 30 years. The Guidelines prescribe a sentencing range for each offense. There is a base offense level that is then increased based on many factors. A plea bargain will be impacted by the sentencing guidelines.
Most Cases Result in a Plea Bargain
Cases that end up going to trial and reaching a verdict are rare in federal criminal law practice. In fact, nine out of every ten convictions are the result of guilty pleas. Now, the rate of cases that go to a trial hovers around five percent.
It shouldn’t be a surprise when a prosecutor reaches out to discuss a plea bargain. The prosecutor’s position and the benefits of a plea agreement are impacted by many factors including the prosecutor’s belief as to the strength of the evidence and the crimes involved.
Prosecutors will often charge a defendant with the highest possible charge in order to motivate the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge through plea agreements. For the prosecutors, it is a victory without a lengthy trial. For defendants, plea bargains are a way to reduce the risk of a long prison sentence. The prosecutor may also be influenced by the reputation and skill of defense counsel which may impact the prosecutor’s belief in the likelihood of a trial ending in the government’s favor.
If you have been charged with a crime or expect to be, it is vital that you contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to begin discussing your legal defense. A federal criminal defense attorney can advise you of your legal rights.
The criminal defense attorney can negotiate a plea bargain with the authorities on your behalf or proceed to trial. You will stand a better chance of obtaining a favorable deal or go to trial if you are represented by a federal criminal defense attorney.
Contact the experienced federal criminal defense attorneys at Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A. to discuss your options.