Federal Crimes Blog

When Does The Plea Bargaining Process Start In A Federal Case?

Posted by Hedding Law Firm | Jan 10, 2020

After the client initially appears and the judge determines whether they are to be released or to stay in custody, the client and the attorney are given the indictment in the case, which is the charging document.

The prosecutors have to get all the paperwork related to the case to the attorney and the attorney will review it with their client and make a decision on whether it's the type of case that they want to negotiate or if they should fight the case.

Negotiation with Federal Prosecutor on Plea Agreement

If it is decided that it is in the best interest of the client to plea bargain, then the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney will discuss the matter and the prosecutors will send over a plea agreement, where they're offering to settle the case under certain terms.

The defense attorney will go over the plea agreement with their client and decide whether to accept it, reject it, or make a counteroffer. Eventually, if it's agreed upon by both sides, the plea agreement is submitted to the court and the defendant will plead guilty to the agreed upon crime.

Plea Bargaining Process In A Federal Case

Then, a sentencing date will be set to resolve the case. There are other things that can happen in a federal case related to a plea bargain. Sometimes, the defendant will meet with the government for a reverse proffer, where the government will give the defendant all the information they have related to the case, so the defendant can see the strength of their case.

The defendant can then assess whether or not they want to resolve the case and enter into a plea bargain with the government.

In showing the defendant what they have, the government may want the defendant to talk to them in what's called a proffer session, where the defendant will answer questions from the government. Typically, before a defendant would do that, they would sign a Queen for a day letter.

This is where the government basically promises not to use any of the information they give them during the proffer session against them. This proffer can lead to benefits for the defendant. One, the defendant will get the opportunity to explain his or her story, which may cause the prosecutors to be more reasonable and lenient.

Two, the defendant's attorney can get points shaved off their sentence, which would lead to a reduced sentence in their federal case.

Should I Consider a Guilty Plea In A Federal Case If I Know I Am Innocent?

My clients ask me quite frequently whether they should take a deal or whether they should take the case to trial. My answer is pretty much always the same. If you shoulder some responsibility for what happened and the government has evidence of it, you should probably let me try to work out some sort of a resolution for you, so you don't risk getting a much higher sentence at trial.

If you're innocent and we see what the government's case is and you still want to profess your innocence, then you should absolutely take your case to trial and not take any resolution from the prosecutors.

Could A Prosecutor Ever Withdraw A Plea Bargain?

Prosecutors withdraw plea bargains all the time. When it comes to a federal plea agreement that is sent to a defendant's attorney for the attorney to go over with the client, it is common that the prosecutors will put a deadline on accepting the plea bargain.

If the person doesn't accept the plea bargain by the deadline, it's automatically withdrawn. Sometimes, they'll enter a plea and then they'll find out more information about a defendant and decide to withdraw the plea agreement for that reason.

Usually, when the prosecutors offer a plea agreement and the defendant accepts the plea agreement within a reasonable amount of time, they're not going to withdraw the plea agreement.

If you've got a situation where you believe that the prosecutors impermissibly withdrew a plea bargain, you want to discuss that with your attorney. If you're not satisfied with your attorney, then hire another attorney and let them deal with the federal prosecutors.

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