How Judges Are Involved in Plea Deals
Research has shown that roughly 94% of all felony cases tried at the state level are resolved through a plea deal. Furthermore, 97% of all federal felony cases are resolved in this same way. Typically, the judge’s role is to evaluate a plea deal to determine whether it represents an adequate sentence in a given case.
The Purpose of a Plea Deal
A prosecutor will sometimes offer a plea deal in a case to save money, time and other resources that may be better spent on more important cases. Defendants will often accept plea deals because they provide a greater sense of certainty about their future. In some cases, a defendant may be able to avoid incarceration or other serious interruptions to their lives in exchange for a guilty plea that they may not have originally been willing to make.
Plea Deals Are Conditioned Upon a Judge’s Approval
After a plea deal has been agreed to, the prosecutor will present it to the judge as part of an overall sentencing recommendation. For instance, a prosecutor may recommend that a defendant receive credit for time served in exchange for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
The judge will then look at the terms of the proposed deal and decide whether or not to accept it. A deal may be altered or rejected outright if there are aggravating circumstances that would justify taking such action. For instance, a defendant may have a plea deal revoked for not showing enough remorse in court.
A judge may also feel that a defendant deserves to receive a harsher sentence based on the facts of the case. If the defendant has pled guilty to harming a child, a plea deal may be rejected based on that factor alone. A defendant might also receive a harsher sentence if that person has committed serious offenses in the past.
Can the Deal Stand Up to Scrutiny?
Another issue that a judge must consider when evaluating a plea deal is whether it will hold up on appeal. A defendant may try to argue that the agreement was the result of poor counsel or pressure from the prosecutor. If a defendant doesn’t have the mental capacity to enter into a contract, a plea agreement could be overturned on appeal.
Even if a plea deal isn’t overturned on appeal, the goal of reaching such an agreement is to save time and money, and that won’t happen if the trial court has to consider it again. Ideally, your Morristown criminal defense lawyer will spend time explaining a proposed plea deal in your case and what it might mean if you agree to it.
Judges Can Help to Craft Plea Deals
Given the number of cases on a docket at any given time, judges generally don’t have time to get involved with plea negotiations. However, they do have the right to take an active role in a given case if they see fit. This might happen if a judge sees potential in a defendant and wants that person to eventually reenter society as a productive adult.
Therefore, a judge may order a defendant to stay at a medical facility in lieu of going to jail. A defendant may also be ordered to find a job and to report to the court on a regular basis for status updates. In many cases, if a defendant abides by the court’s orders, the charges in the case will be dropped.
Judges may also decide to get involved in court cases because they resonate with them on a personal level. For example, if a judge has a family member who struggles with addiction, it may provide an incentive to get directly involved in a case involving an addict.
If you are charged with a crime, contact Morristown criminal defense lawyer Gregg Wisotsky today. You can do so by calling his Morris County office at 973-898-0161 during regular business hours and 908-229-9714 during evenings and weekends.