I've Been Offered a Plea BargainPlea 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 Seventeenth 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 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 13 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 20% to 40% 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.
The Seventeenth Edition of Busted contains a lengthy chapter, Plea Agreements for Dummies. This chapter goes into detail about a phenomenon that has become increasingly common in recent years, to the point where now it is probably the rule rather than the exception. It is a plea “bargain” that gains the defendant nothing, while at the same time it rewards the prosecution with more than they would receive if the same defendant simply walked into the courtroom and pled guilty without any agreement. A “Dummy deal” gives the government waivers of the defendant’s rights that the government would not normally have. The chapter explains the waivers and how to protect yourself against them. It also explains the most recent changes in the Department of Justice policies towards these types of plea agreements.
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
- Fast track programs for deportable inmates