What is a 5K1.1 letter?
A 5K1.1 letter from a U.S. Attorney can be very useful, and it can also be a trap leaving you worse off. You must be fully informed about the pitfalls and your lawyer must be involved in any negotiations. Busted
explains all of this in detail in the relevant section of Part I. It's a "must read" for anyone who has been offered a sentence reduction in return for cooperation with the authorities.
What do I need to know before I negotiate a plea bargain?
There are pages and pages of vital information on plea bargains in Busted by The Feds.
The most important piece is this "It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of knowing your own sentencing guidelines before making or accepting a plea agreement." To work this out you need to sit with the book and consult the charts where your offense is listed and the guidelines for that offense can be calculated easily. Armed with this knowledge you can start to make informed choices in consultation with your lawyer.
The prosecutor is threatening a "prior felony information" if I go to trial (I have two prior convictions). What are the implications of this and what should I do?
The 14th Edition of Busted by The Feds
has the chapter explaining exactly how to weigh up this type of threat. It contains two real-life cases from the author's experience that clearly show the possible pitfalls and how to decide your best course of action — and how to discuss the options intelligently with your attorney.
If I accept a plea offer, can I still appeal my conviction later?
It is common for the government to include a waiver of your right to appeal in a plea offer. But you don't have to accept it, and there are ways of protecting at least some of your appeal rights. Busted
has all the information you need on this topic.
The prosecutor wants me to "debrief" before he will offer me a plea bargain ... should I do this?
tells it like it is and the message is very clear: "You are in your strongest position to bargain with the Government before you open your mouth. Once you've spilled the beans, you will be at their mercy, and prosecutors very rarely have any mercy."
It is also essential that your attorney be present when you debrief to government agents so he can stop you making things worse for yourself. Section 1B1.8 of the sentencing guidelines is there to protect you from self incrimination but you must know about this up front. Make sure you read Busted By The Feds
and understand fully the need for this before making a decision.
If I take a plea, where will I do my time and how much of my sentence will I actually have to do in prison before I can go home or to a halfway house?
These two essential factors are among the items possibly open for negotiation in a plea bargain. You and your attorney must get clear exactly what is in it for you and what you are giving up, before you enter an agreement.
discusses all these factors in clear language, including:
- the crucial importance of your PSI report
- good conduct time
- halfway houses
- community based correctional facilities
- completing drug treatment programs
- supervised release and how it varies from the old parole system
- and the special rules which make it possible for some minor drug offenders to get an extra year off of their prison time.
There is even a listing of Community Correction Manager offices with their addresses.
I've Been Offered a Plea Bargain
Plea bargains are a minefield buy a copy of Busted, read it, and tread carefully.
Plea Bargaining Strategies is a major chapter in Busted by The Feds
because it is such a minefield full of traps for the unwary defendant. The Fourteenth Edition
includes the chapter called The Importance of an Allegation of Prior-Felony Convictions.
This chapter is vital reading if you are negotiating a plea bargain and have prior convictions.
It is vital that you and your lawyer understand the pitfalls, tricks and strategies that the prosecutor will be throwing at you if you are attempting to negotiate a plea bargain. And sadly, in the area of plea bargains there are unscrupulous lawyers who actually work against their client's interests in order to make some easy money. The way they do this is explained in the book. It is absolutely essential that you get yourself well informed in this area.
This chapter of Busted
begins "First, figure out what your sentence guidelines should be. You can use the charts and explanations in this part of this book to figure out virtually all drug cases. If you are charged with another crime, refer to Part III of this book for the base offense level and adjustments applicable to that crime, or ask your lawyer for that information. If you have a special problem, or an especially bad record, then you should consult a lawyer or other good advisor for specialized advice."
The type of chart referred to is shown below. There are 12 charts like this in Busted
and they summarize the information found in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual including the sentence ranges for all federal offenses. Each chart has instructions on it and can be used by anyone even if you have no legal training.
The book also makes the point "Remember: if you are going to give up all your rights by pleading guilty, you should get something in return. In general, a plea bargain is no bargain unless it gives you at least 30% to 50% off the sentence you would receive under the guidelines if you don't accept a plea agreement."
It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of knowing your own sentencing guidelines before making or accepting a plea agreement. Most bad plea bargains come about because the defendant lets himself be pressured into making a decision without enough information and because he fears getting a sentence that is actually much higher than the guidelines would allow. Buy a copy of Busted
, study it carefully, and know your own guidelines before you seriously consider any plea agreement.
You will also find a full discussion of the following items which can often be negotiated in a plea agreement:
- Offense levels
- Role in the crime
- Acceptance of responsibility
- Special circumstances
- Criminal history
- Immigration and deportation
- Delayed incarceration