Given that 97% of all federal criminal cases resolve with a plea of guilty, plea-bargaining is among the most important work of a defense lawyer. The change of plea process in federal court is drastically different from that of New York State court. In state court, the plea of guilty with its “promised sentence” is the last critical part of the case. In federal court, the guilty plea marks a new beginning. None of the many agreed upon terms of the plea, including the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, are binding on the sentencing court. But with limited exceptions, the many serious mandatory minimum terms of incarceration are—and your clients need to be aware of them before changing their plea. “Tell me in your own words what you did that makes you guilty” is not an invitation to merely recite words in a statute. The defendant must be carefully guided through an allocution towards the end of a change of plea hearing that might last 45 minutes. Federal court judges don’t get involved in plea discussions, and fact-bargaining is not allowed. From the written, multi-page plea agreement, including appellate waivers, to the statutory mandates of forfeiture, restitution and fines, when guiding clients through the federal plea process, you’re not in Kansas anymore.
NY: 2.0 Professional Practice
NJ: 2.0 General
CA: 2.0 General
PA: 2.0 General (To obtain PA credit, you must send your PA bar registration number to firstname.lastname@example.org upon completion of the course)