Judges May Impose a Lighter or Harsher Sentence Than Agreed Upon in Plea Agreement Picture this common scenario: The defendant and his Boston criminal defense attorney have hammered out a deal with the prosecution. The defendant has agreed to plead guilty and to accept the prosecutor’s sentence recommendation. All parties appear before the judge to enter the plea. What happens next? The judge will hold a hearing to determine whether (a) there is a factual basis for the charges against the defendant; and (b) the defendant’s plea is voluntary. If both of these conditions are met, the judge will accept the plea. However, acceptance of a defendant’s guilty plea does not mean the judge also must accept the recommended sentence – even if the defendant agreed to it as part of the plea deal. Sentencing is a consideration separate and apart from the plea itself and is within the judge’s discretion. Thus, the judge may impose a higher sentence than the agreed-upon recommendation; before doing so, however, a district court judge must give the defendant the opportunity to withdraw his plea. A superior court judge will usually allow a defendant to withdraw his plea if he imposes a harsher sentence than the plea agreement. Conversely, the judge also may impose a lighter sentence than recommended. In that instance, however, there is no “out” for the Commonwealth; the offer cannot be rescinded, and the Commonwealth cannot withdraw from the agreement if the judge chooses to impose a sentence below the prosecutor’s recommendation. Furthermore, the judge’s authority to impose a lower sentence than recommended in the plea agreement does not end on the day of sentencing. If the Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer files a motion to revise and revoke pursuant to Rule 29(a) of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure, or the judge on his own, a judge may, up to 60 days from the imposition of the sentence, revise or revoke the sentence if “it appears that justice may not have been done.” This discretion to reduce a defendant’s sentence applies even if the defendant previously had agreed to the prosecutor’s recommended sentence as part of the plea deal. Contact Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer, Kevin J. Mahoney With so much at stake during plea negotiations, it is imperative that you have a knowledgeable and experienced Boston criminal defense attorney on your side to protect your rights. If you have been charged with a crime and you would like to discuss your situation, call me, at 617-492-0055, to schedule a free consultation.
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