Often criminal cases are resolved by plea agreements long before a trial begins. Generally, in most plea agreements, a defendant agrees to lighter charges or a reduced sentence in exchange for pleading guilty or no contest. The prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, and judge each have a role to play. In Tampa, prosecutors may be willing to negotiate and enter into a deal to avoid a long trial and close a case without engaging the resources required for trial. However, prosecutors owe no duty to enter into a plea agreement; they make these agreements only when a prosecutor is willing to make or accept an agreement. It can help to retain an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney with a strong reputation in the criminal justice community.
Every plea agreement is different, and what prosecutors are willing to offer as a deal turns on what particular facts make up the charge. When a crime is severe and violence is involved, the prosecutor is less likely to offer a deal. However, if there are mitigating circumstances, these can affect the deal you’re offered. Your prior criminal record can also impact the deal the prosecution offers.Plea Agreements
Plea agreements are made at the discretion of a prosecutor in most cases. In Florida, plea agreements are available under Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.171. The defense attorney and prosecutor must discuss and agree on sentencing choices based on how serious the crime is and what the facts are surrounding the charge. The court will record the conversations if you don’t have an attorney, but it is advisable to have an attorney on your side to get the most favorable plea deal.
A defense attorney can provide crucial, knowledgeable advice about the consequences of accepting a plea bargain, and usually can negotiate a better deal than you can get on your own. He will need to obtain your full agreement and consent before the court can accept an agreement.
When the prosecutor engages in plea agreement discussions, she is supposed to let the judge know about any material facts in the case. The victim, investigating officer, and others may also provide input.
Judges have the final authority over whether a plea bargain should go forward. Sometimes judges decide not to allow the plea bargain even if the prosecutor and defense attorney have agreed to the bargain, although it’s rare for a judge to go a different direction than what the prosecutor recommends. When a judge departs from the prosecutor’s recommendation, she is supposed to let the prosecution and defense know what factors led to the departure.
Additionally, certain drug crimes require a mandatory minimum sentence. In Florida, the judge does not have the discretion to sentence a defendant to a period of incarceration less than the mandatory minimum, even if the prosecutor and defense attorney agree a lower term would be appropriate.Legal Impact of Plea Bargaining
The arraignment in your case is the hearing where charges will be formally read. You’ll be asked to enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. If a judge approves of the plea agreement that was reached and accepts it, the plea goes onto the court’s record. However, if the judge doesn’t approve, a guilty plea made at arraignment may be voided. The case may proceed to trial as if the plea negotiation didn’t happen, but no statements made in the discussions can be put forward as evidence.Consult a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney Serving Tampa
It’s important to be aware that if you accept a plea agreement, you are waiving your right to trial. You’ll need to attest to the judge that you are knowingly changing your plea and accepting an agreement voluntarily. You have the right to withdraw a guilty plea, but you would need to show that you have cause to do so. In most cases, it is important to retain a criminal defense lawyer who can talk to you about the potential consequences of a plea agreement, and negotiate the most effective available one. Our founder Will Hanlon has represented the accused since 1994. Contact Hanlon Law at (813) 228-7095 or via our online form to learn more about how we may be able to protect your rights.