An attorney from a Fort Worth criminal defense law firm can help you understand how plea bargains must not only be negotiated between the prosecutor and the defense lawyer, but also be approved by the judge.
Your Fort Worth Criminal Attorney Will Explain How Judges Handle Plea Bargains
Agreeing to a plea bargain (also referred to as a plea agreement or plea deal) does not automatically mean that the case is over. Judges are still part of the process and have the right to approve or reject a plea bargain.
With a plea bargain, the prosecution and the defense will engage in negotiations to try and come to a reasonable agreement on how the case should be resolved. Even if the parties agree, that does not mean that the judge is guaranteed to approve. There will be certain factors that the judge will consider before agreeing to approve the plea deal or rejecting it. The judge will be presented with the agreement and will commence in evaluating it. In order to do so, the judge will have to know all of the terms of the agreement. That will include conditions applicable in the future or unusual factors in the agreement. An example is if a defendant is offered a lighter sentence than he would normally have received if he agrees to provide testimony in the future against a potential co-defendant. In a situation such as this, the judge must be informed of the extenuating circumstances. The judge must also be informed if there are other accommodations made such as allowing the defendant to have community service and being allowed to perform it on weekends.
A Judge Can Exercise Discretion When Evaluating A Plea Agreement
An attorney from a Fort Worth criminal defense law firm will tell you that the judge is able to determine whether a plea deal should be accepted or not. In order to come to a conclusion, the judge will evaluate the charges and decide if the punishment is appropriate. Such factors as the character of the defendant and if there is a prior criminal record will all be taken into consideration before a decision is made. Other aspects that the judge will take into consideration are:
- The case itself and its underlying facts
- How the victim factors in even though the court can accept a plea agreement without receiving approval from the victim
- How the general public’s interests are served
The Judge And Deciding On The Plea Agreement
Procedures will vary depending on the case’s jurisdiction, but the judge will always make the decision as to whether or not to accept or reject the plea agreement before the defendant goes through with formally entering the plea. When the decision is made, the judge has the right to:
- Agree to the terms of the plea deal
- Reject the terms of the plea deal
- Defer making a decision until taking the pre-sentence report into consideration
- Have certain terms under which the plea deal will be accepted but issuing a rejection on the sentence that has been negotiated
- Suggest that the defendant make the plea without having a negotiated settlement
Some jurisdictions require a judge to accept an entire agreement if the prosecution and the defense have decided on a sentence and the judge has accepted the negotiated plea. That will include the sentence. Other jurisdictions do not require the judge to accept the recommendations for sentencing that are part of the plea deal.
Some jurisdictions allow the defendant to withdraw the plea in the event the judge does not adhere to the recommendation for sentencing. If the judge refuses the plea bargain, there are certain procedures that each jurisdiction will have and they must be followed. In general, that will include the judge giving reasons for rejecting the agreement.
If the judge accepts the plea agreement whether it is a guilty plea or a no contest plea and there is a conviction entered into the record, the judge cannot decide to overturn it at a later date. That said, when the parties come to an agreement on a negotiated plea and it has a requirement that the defendant adhere to various conditions, the court will retain jurisdiction over the case until those conditions have been met. An example might be if the defendant was given community service rather than jail time and did not perform the community service. If the defendant fails to satisfy those conditions, the judge can subsequently reject the agreement and re-sentence the defendant.
Contact An Experienced Fort Worth Criminal Attorney
If you have questions about plea agreements, call (877) 208-3382 to speak to a Fort Worth criminal attorney at the Law Office of Bryan P. Hoeller.