Should You Turn State’s Evidence?
If you are facing serious criminal charges, there may be a way to make a deal with the prosecutor by providing information about a bigger fish related to the criminal activity of which you are accused. This is more formally referred to as turning state’s evidence. What could that mean for you?
There are strict federal rules that must be followed whenever someone chooses to partake in a plea agreement. The defendant has to plead either guilty or nolo contendere, or makes a plea conditional on a review by an appellate court. From there, the defendant is advised and questioned by the judge while under oath in open court, and given information related to several issues:
- The defendant’s right to plead not guilty;
- The defendant’s right to have their attorney representing them or to have counsel appointed by the court if necessary;
- The right to have an attorney present throughout all proceedings and the trial;
- The substance of all charges to which a defendant chooses to plead guilty;
- Sentencing guidelines to which a judge must adhere;
- Maximum penalties associated with these charges, including the possibility of incarceration, fines, restitution, probation and parole;
- Mandatory minimum penalties for each of the charges;
- The government’s right to use statements you provide under oath if later prosecuting false statements or perjury;
- The right of the court to order a special assessment;
- The defendant’s right to testify at trial, to refrain from incriminating themselves, to confront adversarial witnesses, and to compel witness testimony;
- The mandatory waiving of the above rights if a plea deal is accepted;
- The inability to appeal if the plea is accepted;
- The prospect of deportation for non-citizens.
The court is required to ensure that all pleas are entered into voluntarily, and that no defendant was forced or threatened in any way. The judge will question the defendant in open court to ascertain that the plea agreement was honestly brokered and that there is clear evidence of the defendant’s guilt in any crimes listed in the plea agreement.
Having a Change of Heart
Any defendant has the right to withdraw from the deal for any reason before the court accepts it. If the court has accepted the plea but not yet imposed a sentence, the defendant could feasibly present a reasonable explanation for wanting to withdraw from the plea and see how the court responds. But if the sentence has been handed down, it is too late for a change of heart.
Is a Plea Deal in the Cards for You?
Plea deals occur all the time, to the benefitting both the defendant and the state. At The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos our Miami criminal defense attorneys know how to negotiate the best possible deal for clients when they wish to pursue a deal. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.