Plea Bargaining – How Critical It Is For Your Criminal Case
So often, clients are faced with a plea bargaining situation in court. Whether it is Federal court or state court, this is how many cases get resolved. Therefore, it is critical, that your attorney understands the criminal process and advises you correctly about your options. If you have been charged with a crime and are seeking an experienced attorney in Virginia or Maryland, call the SRIS Law Group for help. Our attorneys are experienced criminal defense attorneys in Virginia & Maryland. We can guide you through the entire criminal process from inception, to potential plea bargaining offers to a trial if necessary. Do not place your fate in the hands of a rookie. The famous adage of “You get what you pay for” really does apply.
The question involved in the cases below is what happens when a criminal defendant receives deficient legal advice in the plea bargaining stage. In Missouri v. Frye and Lefler v. Cooper, the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel applies at the plea bargaining stage.
In Lafler v. Cooper, the Court considered whether a criminal defendant who rejects a favorable plea offer based on his lawyer’s advice and later is convicted and received a harsher sentence can seek to overturn that sentence on the grounds that his attorney was unconstitutionally deficient. In this case the Court vacated and remanded the judgment of the lower court, holding that a criminal defendant who rejects a plea offer based on legal advice so deficient that it violates the Sixth Amendment, and later is convicted at trial and receives a harsher sentence, can seek reconsideration of his sentence if he can show a reasonable probability that, but for the inefficiency assistance of attorney, the agreement would have been presented to and accepted by the court, and the subsequent conviction and sentence (or both) under that agreement would have been less severe than the judgment and sentence that were actually imposed.
In Missouri v. Frye the defendant was charged with driving with a revoked license. The prosecutor wrote to Frye’s defense attorney and offered two different possibilities with a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail. Frye’s Attorney did not communicate the offers to his client and Frye was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. The Court considered whether a criminal defendant whose Attorney failed to communicate an offer from the prosecution can successfully claim inefficiency assistance of attorney if he is later convicted and sentenced more harshly under a less favorable agreement. The Court vacated and remanded the judgment of the lower court holding that the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of attorney in criminal cases includes the right to notice from one’s attorney of the terms of offer from the prosecution. Failure to convey such terms to the defendant violates that right. To obtain relief, however, the defendant must still establish a reasonable probability that, had he received effective assistance of attorney, the defendant would have accepted the offer, the resulting agreement would have been entered by the court, and that agreement would have resulted in lesser charge or a lighter sentence than was actually imposed.
Test from Strickland v. Washington,
This test was decided in 1984, for determining whether there had been inefficiency assistance of attorney. Under Strickland, a defendant must show
- That attorney’s performance is so deficient as to negate the Sixth Amendment right to attorney and
- That the defendant must demonstrate “prejudice” from the inadequate representation.
In order to complete a showing of Strickland prejudice, the following facts have to be established:
That the Defendant would have accepted and if the prosecution or the trial court had the discretion to accept or deny it there is a reasonable probability neither the prosecution nor the trial court would have prevented the offer from being accepted or implemented.
This leads to the following conclusions:
- That the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of attorney applies at the bargaining stage.
- Recently, the court granted certiorari for next term in Chaidez v. United States as to the important question of whether Padilla applies retroactively.
- There is likely to be a change in the bargaining process. Presently the requesting process is often informal, sometimes taking place through conversations between a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Change may be of such a nature that the requesting process may entirely become a written process, every negotiation between the prosecution and the defense attorney regarding the deal would be recorded in writing so as to prevent future fabrication of cases based on inefficiency assistance of attorney. The main purpose of such a change is to make sure that the defendant is sufficiently advised as to the consequences of his request.
- The Court has mentioned in both the cases regarding some measures that ought to be taken by the prosecution and the trial court in the direction of avoiding fabricated claims with regard to inefficiency assistance of attorney. The discussion also notes that the Courts have not clearly specified as to what measures should be adopted in this direction by the trial court and the prosecution.
- In both the cases the Court specifies about the sufficient showing of prejudice. In both cases, the court says that prejudice requires that the defendant show that he or she likely would have accepted the request, that the prosecutor would not have withdrawn it, and that the court would have allowed it. But it is unclear how these determinations are to be made.
If you need help with this type of case in Fairfax, City of Fairfax, Prince William (Manassas), Fauquier (Warrenton), Loudoun (Leesburg), Caroline, Stafford, Spotsylvania (Fredericksburg), Chesterfield, Henrico, Arlington, Richmond, Alexandria, Warren (Front Royal), Clarke, Shenandoah, King George, Charles City, Frederick (Winchester), Fredericksburg, Gloucester, Hanover, Hopewell, James City, King & Queen, King William, New Kent, Newport News, Petersburg, Prince George, Rappahannock, York, call our law firm immediately for help and speak to a lawyer about your options. In Maryland, if you need help with this type of an issue in Montgomery County, Charles County (Waldorf), Rockville, Bethesda, Howard County, Ellicott City or Frederick, do not hesitate to call us for a consultation. B