What is a plea deal?
When someone wants to admit to some wrongdoing of a criminal act they enter a plea. A plea simply means you want to make a deal. In its simplest form, when someone wants to enter a plea, they fill out a form called a tender of plea. On a tender of plea form there are three rows for people to write. One row is what the Defendant wants for a deal. Another is for the district attorney to sign and write what they think is acceptable. The third row is what the judge finds acceptable. However, the judge never fills out their row until the plea hearing has concluded.
What is a plea hearing?
In a plea hearing, the client, the defendant’s attorney, and the prosecutor all stand before a judge. The judge will then direct the district attorney to recite the facts alleged. After the judge hears those facts, they will ask the defendant if those facts are correct or incorrect or if you admit there are “sufficient facts” to find you guilty.
Upon the judge hearing that you admit to sufficient facts or are pleading guilty, based on the facts just read by the prosecutor, the judge will then begin to ask the defendant a series of questions. The judge will ask those questions while your attorney is standing right next to you. One of the questions the judge will ask is if your pleading is a result of force, threats, promises, or assurances. The judge will also ask if you are aware you are giving up certain constitutional rights like:
- Selecting a jury
- Confronting a witness
- Cross-examining and compelling the attendance of witnesses
- Presenting evidence in your defense
- Remaining silent
- Refusing to testify or provide evidence against yourself
The judge may also ask if you are aware of the nature and elements of the charge and if you are aware of the array of possible sentences, and that your plea may have immigration consequences if you are not a citizen of the US, such as:
- Exclusion of admission
- Denial of naturalization
How can I improve a plea deal?
At this point the judge will listen to each side: the district attorney’s side and the defendant’s side. When making the case for their side, the defense lawyer can add a number of things to support your side:
- Background memoranda
- Letters of reference or character
- General letters of support
- Anything else helpful to the judge making the final decision
Finally, the judge will make a decision as to what they will do. They will write their final decision on the third block on the judge’s tender of plea form.
The important thing to remember in a district court plea is that if you don’t like what the judge says you can always withdraw it and move onto trial. You are not forced to take the plea.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT A PLEA, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.