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Important facts about federal plea deals

Plea bargains play an important role in the criminal justice system. While state courts and other agencies might give everyone leeway in working out these deals, the federal court system is under strict guidelines.

When you are facing criminal charges in the federal system, you have to think carefully about your options. This is a bit different from facing state or local charges because federal prosecutors have vast resources.

Very little leeway

The federal government has strict sentencing guidelines that govern charges heard in these courts. The United States Sentencing Guideline has restrictive terms for many convictions. Some of these are mandatory minimum sentences that can't be broken for any reason. When this is the case, the defendant needs to figure out whether a plea deal with get them a sentence that is less severe than what they would face in a jury trial.

Alford pleas forbidden

Another consideration for federal plea deals is that you can't enter into an Alford plea, which allows you to plead guilty to a charge while continuing to maintain your innocence. While there are few exceptions to this rule, no defendant should ever count on being able to use this type of plea deal.

The plea deal system is built on the defendant taking ownership of his or her actions that led up to the case being filed. When this isn't present, there isn't a good reason to enter into a plea agreement.

Prosecutorial conduct

For cases that might include the death penalty, the prosecutors can't ask for the death penalty or say they are going to ask for it to push the person into accepting a plea deal. Federal plea deals are based on the prosecutor acting in the best interest of the United States. When they act in unethical manners, this goes against what they should be doing. No prosecutor should ever try to force the defendant into taking a plea deal.

When you are considering a federal criminal case, consider all the ways that a plea deal might impact your life. This includes the criminal justice sentence, as well as any other consequences you might face as a result of pleading guilty or no contest to the charges.

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