When you go into federal court to enter your plea, the judge goes through a long colloquy related to your rights, what you're getting yourself into, and your discussions with your attorney. It is rare that a federal judge would allow a person to withdraw a plea. There certainly are grounds, in some cases, but again it is never a good idea. It could result in disaster, as far as a more serious sentence.
If I Accept A Plea Offer And Plead Guilty, Can I Appeal This Decision Later?
Built into most federal plea agreements is language related to the person's ability to appeal. Most of the time, the federal prosecutors are trying to limit the person's ability to appeal, if they take a plea bargain in the case.
They cannot completely get rid of a person's ability to appeal; there are certain grounds that would still allow someone to appeal. For example, if a judge were to sentence the person to higher than the maximum sentence available, that would be grounds for appeal.
Ineffective assistance of counsel, if it could be proved, would likely be grounds for appeal. Beyond that, the government doesn't want to keep fighting cases over and over again, especially after the person has agreed to take a resolution in the case.
They're going to put language in the plea agreement that basically blocks that person from attempting to appeal their case unless there's some sort of extreme grounds.
What Actually Happens At A Federal Plea Hearing?
Both the government counsel and defense counsel are present at a federal plea hearing. A lot of times, the probation department may be present. The criminal defendant would be present and the plea agreement would be discussed by the judge.
The prosecutor would have input related to any questions the judge might have about the plea. The defendant is read their rights and the judge goes through the plea agreement with the defendant, making sure the defendant understands it and agrees to it. Once it's clear that the defendant understands the plea agreement, the judge will select the sentencing date.
The judge will set a sentencing date, order the probation department to do a report related to the case, tell the attorneys the parameters, as far as them submitting any objections they might have related to the sentencing and the pre-sentence report, and then the case will be set for the next court date.
Is It Possible To Get My Federal Charges Reduced To Lesser Offense?
It is possible to get federal charges reduced but that is not the usual case in federal court. Prosecutors file what they believe they can prove. However, if it can be determined that there are lesser charges that are more applicable to a particular defendant, or if the defendant were to cooperate with the government, and the government decides they're going to give them the ability to plead the lesser charges, it is possible.
The prosecutor will be in a stronger position to convince the judge to give a lower sentence in a federal case because they believe the defendant deserves it due to their cooperation in the case.
When someone is arrested and charged with a federal crime, there are limited ways to resolve the case. There is a pretty high conviction rate for federal cases across the United States. There has to be some sort of a mechanism for resolving these cases.
If it is better that 90 percent of people are pleading guilty instead of taking cases to trial, then the best way that the prosecutors have come up with is that they will offer an agreement to settle the case.
The defense could plead open to the judge and not enter into a plea agreement with the government. Then, the judge would ultimately be responsible for the sentencing. The government will usually offer the initial plea agreement but it doesn't have to go down that way. Their plea agreement does not have to be accepted by the defense and the defense can counter their plea agreement.