The Plea Agreement
If a “Plea Agreement” or “Plea Bargain” has been reached between the defense attorney and the prosecutor, resulting in a lesser included offense, a Change of Plea will take place. Typically, this is scheduled for a specific date. Once a Plea Agreement is reached, the judge has the option to either “defer” acceptance of the plea until the “Sentencing” date or accept the Plea Agreement immediately. However, accepting it on the spot may lead to immediate custody. It is common to “Defer Acceptance” until a “Presentence Report” is prepared, allowing the judge to keep the Defendant out of custody for the following month or so (refer to definition below).
If a Plea Agreement is not reached during the Pretrial Conference phases, the Defendant can proceed to have their case scheduled for either a “Jury Trial” or a “Bench Trial” (see Jury or Bench Trial). A Jury Trial involves community jurors, while a Bench Trial is conducted directly in front of the judge.
Presentence Report: Immediately after a Change of Plea or a Guilty Verdict following a trial, the Defendant is required to report to the Probation Department (typically within the same building) to meet with a “Presentence Report” writer. If the Defendant is taken into custody after a Change of Plea or guilty verdict, the meeting may take place in jail. The Presentence Report writer conducts an interview to gather information and makes recommendations for the Defendant’s “Sentence” to the judge. If the Plea Agreement includes specific terms, the probation officer can only recommend that the judge either accept the plea or reject it, potentially resulting in a lighter or harsher sentence. It is essential to treat the Presentence Report writer with respect and consult with your attorney beforehand to discuss what should be conveyed during the meeting.
Sentencing: “Sentencing” typically occurs 30 days after the “Change of Plea” or a Guilty Verdict at trial. By this time, the “Presentence Report” will have already been prepared, and it will be reviewed with the Defendant (see definition above). If the report suggests a severe sentence, and both the prosecutor and report align in recommending such, a “Mitigation Hearing” may be requested approximately 30 days later. During this period, the defense attorney will work with the Defendant to prepare a “Sentencing Memorandum” aimed at persuading the judge to impose the lightest possible sentence within the range specified in the Plea Agreement or Sentencing ranges if found guilty after trial. If a specified timeframe is included in the Plea Agreement, a Mitigation Hearing may not be necessary, and the sentencing will proceed on the initial Sentencing date. It is crucial to have a skilled defense attorney who understands the judge’s tendencies, such as Ted Agnick, to determine the need for a Mitigation Hearing.
To discuss Plea Agreements and related matters, schedule a free consultation with an attorney.