Can a Judge Reject a Plea Agreement?

Criminal cases can be resolved in many different ways. In most criminal cases, defendants choose to enter in to a plea agreement. In a plea bargain, a defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for concessions from prosecutors when it comes to sentencing. Courts also often encourage plea deals because they reduce backlogs, and judges typically abide by the deals.

Though the practice is rare, judges can reject plea deals. This is what happened on January 31st in the federal prosecution related to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood that would have averted a federal hate-crimes trial for two men.

Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael could now go to trial in federal court as early as February 7. Those two men and a third defendant, William Bryan, have already been convicted of murder in a state court in November.The purpose of the federal trial is to determine whether the murder is a hate crime that was motivated by racial bias.

While the rejection of plea deals is uncommon, judges do have broad latitude to do it if they think the terms don’t serve the interests of justice. For instance, in May of last year, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang rejected a plea deal that would have put a man described as the world’s largest purveyor of child pornography in jail for 15 to 21 years. The judge said he was inclined to give the defendant a longer sentence. Moreover, last July in Oklahoma, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell rejected a plea deal to reduce a first-degree murder charge to second-degree.

While plea bargaining is essentially a private process, the American Bar Association has noted that victims’ rights groups are having a stronger voice in the process. The Arbery family did not have input into the process, but they did have a strong voice after prosecutors and defense lawyers reached their proposed agreement. Prosecutors believed the deal was sufficiently tough because it eliminated any chance of parole. The family argued that giving the defendants the more desirable prison environment is wrong and that they need to be tried in federal court on hate-crime charges.

For criminal defendants, accepting a plea bargain means they can avoid more serious charges, serve a lighter sentence, and avoid the hassle and uncertainty of a trial.The downside for criminal defendants is that agreeing to a plea bargain means admitting guilt. Lastly, a very importantly a plea bargain typically requires surrendering any rights to appeal.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

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