A recent article details how prosecutors are withdrawing plea deals from criminal defendants once the defendants take depositions or try to discover the identity of a confidential informant.
Are prosecutors allowed to do this?
In a word, yes. Prosecutors have the ability to make, and then withdraw, a plea offer. Many times the prosecutor will say that the plea offer will “expire” if the defendant takes the case to trial. or takes the deposition of a key witness This is a common negotiating tactic designed to scare defendants into pleading out rather than forcing the prosecutor to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
Once a plea deal is reached, the judge has the option to either accept or reject the plea. The judge can reject a plea for a variety of reasons, but the most common reasons are usually that the judge doesn’t find the plea to be voluntary or the judge doesn’t agree with the sentence imposed, whether it is too lenient (another example here) or too harsh. Prosecutors and defense attorneys typically know what a judge’s priorities are, and so it is relatively rare to see a judge reject a plea deal on those grounds. Also, a plea must also be knowing and voluntary. This means that if you enter into a plea deal, you must do so of your own free will, you must know exactly what the agreed punishment will be, and you cannot be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.
While it may seem that plea deals are an easy way to resolve a criminal case (and in many situations they are) they have many potential pitfalls to be aware of. At Hillsborough Defense we always work to get the best result possible for our clients, be that a favorable plea deal or a not guilty verdict at trial.