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Can a judge reject the plea deal you made with the prosecution?

Many people who are faced with the possibility of a lengthy trial, a longer incarceration and the loss of their personal and professional reputation as details of their activities become public knowledge, choose to accept a plea deal rather than take their case to trial. It's important to understand, however, that plea deals aren't always honored by the judge.

If the prosecution and the defendant can come to an agreement on what equals a fair sentence, why would a judge impose a different one?

Judges may reject a plea deal for a number of different reasons:

-- Pressure from the victims in a case, especially if the prosecution fails to include them in on the negotiations to see how willing they are to accept the outcome of the deal.

-- Pressure from the public in general, especially if the case has gathered a lot of attention in the media and there's a large public outcry. Many judges are elected to their positions, so they have an invested interest in responding to the demands of the public.

-- In white collar crimes, which usually involve the loss of money, a judge might be unwilling to accept a plea that doesn't include significant restitution to the victims, so that they recover their losses.

-- A belief that the plea isn't in the interest of justice because it isn't severe enough to prevent the defendant from doing the same thing again.

-- A belief that the defendant isn't acting voluntarily or with the full understanding of the consequences of his or her actions.

Because of the possibility that a judge could reject a plea agreement and impose a harsher sentence, it's sometimes wise for defense attorneys to apprise the judge of a potential plea. While the judge cannot set the terms of the plea bargain, he or she can indicate a willingness (or unwillingness) to accept any given deal.

For more information on what to expect in a specific situation, talk to a criminal defense attorney today. He or she can often tell you what sort of plea deal you may be able to make based on the specifics of your case and his or her experiences in court.

Source:, "Chapter 6: Plea Agreements And Procedure," accessed March 10, 2017

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