Overview of Federal Plea Bargaining

Posted on in Federal Crimes

IL defense lawyerDid you know that 98% of federal criminal cases end in a plea bargain? When a defendant takes a plea bargain, the offender must plead guilty for a reduced punishment.

A plea bargain is between the defendant and the prosecutor. Federal law prohibits a federal judge from taking part in the process. 

Below, we briefly discuss the basics of a plea agreement and the reasons why prosecutors offer defendants plea bargains. If you are facing charges, seek help from a Chicago federal criminal defense attorney immediately.

What is a Federal Plea Agreement?

When a defendant agrees to plead guilty as part of a plea agreement, the accused is doing so under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

The defendant must plead guilty, although a plea of nolo contendre is also acceptable. However, the court may reject a nolo contendre plea. A plea of nolo contendre means that the defendant does not wish to contend the charge(s) but accepts the charge(s) without actually admitting guilt. 

If you plead nolo contendre, the plea cannot be used against you if you are later tried in civil court, while a guilty plea can be used against you at a later date.

Rule 11 requires that the court must inform the defendant of the following before the prosecutor can accept the defendant’s plea:

  • The nature of the charge
  • Minimum and maximum penalties
  • Sentencing guidelines that will be taken under consideration
  • The defendant may be ordered to compensate the victim for damages
  • The defendant has the right to an attorney
  • The defendant has the right to plead not guilty
  • The defendant has the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses at trial
  • The defendant has to refuse to testify at trial
  • The defendant waives his or her right to trial by taking a plea bargain
  • Any statements the defendant makes under oath can be used against the defendant to attack his or her credibility (perjury)

Why Would the Government Offer a Plea Bargain?

A federal prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain for a few reasons:

To ensure you are convicted

If you are indicted on multiple counts, a plea agreement ensures that you are convicted, even if your sentence is reduced or some remaining counts are dismissed.

A prosecutor may also offer a plea bargain after trial if you were found guilty. This is the prosecutor’s way of guaranteeing that you are sentenced since there is a risk that you could win on appeal.

To prevent a backup of court cases

The court system is already “clogged,” so a prosecutor will do anything to resolve your case as quickly as possible. Prosecutors do not like to take cases to trial, and the court system would not be able to function if thousands of cases were moved to trial each year.

To protect government informants

Government informants usually have a criminal history. If a defendant takes a plea bargain, the prosecutor would not be required to report the person’s criminal record to a jury if the informant served as a witness in a future case.

A Chicago federal criminal lawyer will have the knowledge and experience necessary to advise you on whether taking a plea bargain is in your best interest.

A Chicago, IL, Federal Criminal Lawyer Looking Out for You

A federal prosecutor is working for the government and is only interested in serving their best interests. You should have equally strong representation in a Chicago, IL, criminal defense attorney fighting for you. Attorney Hal Garfinkel has been serving Chicago for nearly 20 years with impressive results. Contact Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today to schedule your free consultation. 

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