It’s not uncommon for a federal case to be resolved through a plea agreement. Plea agreements are generally reached to help prosecutors obtain convictions in a timely manner while helping defendants obtain some sort of certainty about their future. Let’s take a look at what happens after you accept such a deal from the prosecutor in your case.
The Plea Deal Is Submitted to the Judge
It’s critical to note that a prosecutor has no say in what your final sentence will be. Therefore, you should be aware that a plea agreement is simply a recommendation made to the judge as to how you should be punished in the matter. However, the judge will typically stay as close as possible to the proposed guidelines assuming that he or she believes them to be reasonable.
The Judge Will Confirm That You Understand the Terms of the Deal
Prior to deciding your fate, the judge will ask if you fully understand what you are agreeing to. Ideally, your attorney will have already gone over the terms of the deal and what they mean. Furthermore, your attorney should have talked about any future consequences of a conviction such as difficulty finding work or housing. If you confirm that you’re ready to take the deal, a sentencing date will be set.
More Research May Take Place Prior to This Date
In almost every case, the judge will ask for a sentencing report to be completed. This report will provide more information about you, your crime and other information that might be relevant in your proceeding. The information contained within the report will be used to determine if the structure of your plea deal should be allowed to stand.
The Judge Will Announce Your Punishment
On sentencing day, the judge will announce the exact terms of your sentence. If your sentence falls outside of the guidelines proposed by the prosecution, he or she will tell you why your sentence was different than what you expected it to be. It’s worth noting that you will likely be able to appeal the judge’s decision even if you don’t think it is fair.
You Can Dissolve a Plea Agreement
You generally have the right to opt out of a plea agreement at any point after it is submitted to the judge. It may be worthwhile to do so if new evidence comes to light that might increase your chances of obtaining a full acquittal. However, you reserve the right to back out of a deal for any reason. Of course, there is a chance that the prosecutor might seek additional charges against you or seek the maximum sentence on charges that you already face.
What Does an Attorney Do After Your Plea Deal Has Been Finalized?
Your attorney will continue to advocate for you even after a deal has been finalized and submitted for approval. For example, this person might work to convince the judge to sentence you as close to the minimum guidelines outlined in the proposed deal.
If you get a sentence that you feel is overly harsh, your legal representative will assist during the appeal process. In the event that your cooperation is required as part of an agreement, legal counsel can help to ensure that you do so without further incriminating yourself.
There is a good chance that you will be offered a plea deal in your federal criminal case. Therefore, it’s important that you understand what happens after a deal is accepted. If you have any questions about this process, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your attorney as quickly as possible.