Federal Plea Agreements

Federal Plea Agreements

Plea Agreements – Federal Court

What Is A Federal Plea Agreement?
If a Defendant in federal court decides to plead guilty, he or she has two options.

Option one is to plead guilty “open” to the Court.  What this means is that the Defendant pleads guilty as charged without a plea agreement with the Government.

Option two is to plead guilty with a plea agreement.  A plea agreement is a contract between the Government and the Defendant.  In the plea agreement, the Government and Defendant make each other promises.  Like any contract, both sides give things up, and both sides get things they want.

How Does The Federal Plea Agreement Process Work?
Typically, after the federal grand jury indicts (accuses) a Defendant, the Government will provide the Defendant with a proposed plea agreement.  If, after reviewing the plea agreement with his or her attorney, the Defendant decides to sign the plea agreement, the attorneys for the Government will also sign the agreement and then file it with the clerk of court.

When the Defendant pleads guilty, a federal magistrate judge will review the plea agreement with the Defendant to ensure that the Defendant understands the terms of the agreement.

What Terms And Information Are Included In A Federal Plea Agreement?
A federal plea agreement will include:

  • The Government’s promises to the Defendant
  • The Defendant’s promises to the Government
  • Information concerning the consequences of a guilty plea
  • A summary of the Defendant’s conduct in the offense.

What Are Some Promises That The Government Might Make To The Defendant In a Federal Plea Agreement?
In a federal plea agreement, the Government may promise:

  1. To ask the Court to dismiss one or more of the charges against the Defendant.
  2. Not to file any further charges against the Defendant.
  3. To recommend a certain sentence to the Court.
  4. To ask the Court for a one level reduction in the Defendant’s United States Sentencing Guidelines offense level for acceptance of responsibility.
  5. To consider whether or not the Defendant has provided substantial assistance in the investigation and prosecution of others, and if so, to ask the judge to reduce the Defendant’s sentence.
  6. Not to use any of the information the Defendant provides during his or her substantial assistance against the Defendant.

What Are Some Promises That The Defendant Might Make To The Government In a Federal Plea Agreement?
In a federal plea agreement, the Defendant may promise:

  1. To assist the Government in the investigation and prosecution of other persons.
  2. To agree to forfeit any money or property used in the offense, or obtained as a result of the offense.
  3. If applicable, to pay restitution to any victim of the offense that lost money or property.
  4. To provide information about the Defendant’s finances.
  5. Not to appeal the Court’s sentence.

What Consequences Of Pleading Guilty Might Be Included In a Federal Plea Agreement?
The following consequences of pleading guilty might be included in the plea agreement:

  1. The minimum and maximum punishments which the Defendant faces.
  2. The elements of the offenses to which the Defendant is pleading guilty.
  3. The immigration consequences of pleading guilty.
  4. Information concerning potential fines.
  5. Information concerning federal supervised release.

Can Plea Agreements Guarantee What Sentence A Judge Will Impose?
No.  In a plea agreement:

  1. The Government may promise to recommend to the Court a particular sentence, but the Government’s recommendation is not binding on the Court. If the Court does not agree with the Government’s recommendation, the Defendant cannot withdraw his or her guilty plea and will receive the sentence the Court decides to impose.
  1. The Government may agree to a specific sentence. If the Government makes such an agreement and then the judge does not agree, then Defendant can withdraw his or her guilty plea.

Is It Better To Plead Guilty Open Or Is It Better to Plead Guilty With A Plea Agreement?
Every case is different, and like any contract, plea agreements have advantages and disadvantages.  Sometimes the best option is to plead open to the judge, sometimes the best option is to plead with a plea agreement, and sometimes the best option is to go to trial.  Only after careful consideration, and with the advice of an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer, should a Defendant decide whether or not to enter a plea agreement?

Are you looking for the best federal criminal defense lawyer in Tampa Florida? Contact Attorney David C. Hardy.

Tampa Attorney David C. Hardy is a former prosecutor that now represents people in matters related to federal criminal offenses.

Attorney Hardy is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. In the Federal Courts, he has handled a wide variety of cases including international extradition, drug trafficking, bank fraud, health care fraud, immigration offenses, aggravated identity theft, the misbranding of drugs, and firearms offenses.  He has represented clients in Federal Trial and Appellate Courts in Florida, Texas, and Georgia.

Attorney Hardy has the knowledge, skills, and experience to guide you through this process and obtain the best possible results.  Contact Attorney Hardy for a free consultation.