Articles Posted in Plea Agreement

You probably are familiar with the concept of plea bargains in criminal cases. What you may (or may not) know is that when the prosecution and defense reach a plea agreement, the judge isn’t obliged to follow the deal’s terms. So, even once you have worked out a plea deal with the prosecution, it is essential to be prepared for every possible outcome, including the judge not going along with the deal. In other words, you need skilled Maryland criminal defense counsel that can have you prepared for all possibilities.

A recent case from Baltimore County was an example of this scenario. The background to the case was a domestic dispute. H.H. had allegedly gotten into an argument with his girlfriend at her home and, after being escorted out by other men, threatened to “shoot up” the home. A few hours later, three men arrived at the residence, burst through the rear door and shot up the home. Based on these events, the state charged H.H. with 52 counts, including two attempted murder charges, several assault charges and multiple gun crimes.

H.H. pled guilty, as part of a plea deal, to one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault, and the state nolle prossed the other charges, meaning that it declined to prosecute those other 51 counts. The sentence to which H.H. agreed was 15 years with all but three years suspended. The judge sentenced H.H. not to 15 years with all but three years suspended but to 25 years with all but 13 suspended. In other words, the judge tacked on an extra 10 years. The man asked to withdraw his plea and receive a new trial, but the judge refused.

Most states have court rules and laws that govern the preparation and enforceability of a plea agreement between a criminal defendant and the State. According to case law, plea agreements play a “crucial role” in the Maryland criminal justice system. Part of the allure of a plea agreement is the level of certainty it provides to the person charged with a crime, as well as to the State. Furthermore, the use of plea agreements (rather than a trial) serves to reduce the overcrowding of courts by disposing of cases in an more efficient manner. It is important to ensure that any applicable legal rules are complied with in order to protect one’s rights at this very important stage, as well as throughout the whole criminal process.  If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The highest court in Maryland recently addressed the legality of a criminal sentence that is below the terms of the binding plea agreement.  In this case, a grand jury indicted Tommy Garcia Bonilla back in 1989 on two counts of first-degree murder as well as other serious crimes.  Count I and Count III represented the two separate murder charges.  In 1990, Bonilla and the State entered into a binding plea agreement with the following terms.  If called upon by the State, Bonilla would testify against one of his co-defendants and would plead guilty to Counts I and III. In return, the State agreed that Bonilla would receive a sentence of life imprisonment on Count III, and a consecutive life imprisonment sentence with all but 20 years suspended on Count I.

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