If authorities charged you with allegedly committing a federal white-collar crime in Louisiana, the prosecutor may offer you a plea agreement. Forbes reports that nearly 90% of federal defendants sign a plea agreement so they can save the time and expense of a jury trial.
Before you sign a plea agreement, however, you should know that, however favorable it may be, it also will disadvantage you in several ways, including the following:
- You relinquish your constitutional right to a jury trial.
- You must admit in open court that you committed the crime.
- You relinquish the right to appeal your conviction.
- You cannot rescind the agreement should you subsequently change your mind about it.
But is this always the case?
Recent Supreme Court decision
In the recent U.S. Supreme Court case of Class v. United States, the Justices gave people convicted of white collar crimes new hope that they can rescind the plea agreements they signed. In this case, Mr. Class signed a plea agreement admitting that he had a gun in his Jeep’s locked safe when he parked his vehicle in a Washington, D.C. parking lot that turned out to be in a no firearm zone.
Even though Class received a very favorable penalty as the result of his plea agreement, he nevertheless appealed his conviction, citing the following arguments:
- That he had been unaware of Washington, D.C.’s statute banning the carrying of firearms
- That this statute violated his right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment
- That the sign in the parking lot violated his right to due process, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment
- That as a North Carolina citizen, he possessed a valid gun license to keep his firearm in his vehicle’s locked safe
- That his plea agreement failed to waive his appellate rights
The appellate court denied Class’s right to appeal, holding that the plea agreement he signed implied a waiver of his appellate rights. Undeterred, Class appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on the same grounds. SCOTUS overruled the lower court and sided with Class. Among other things, the Court stated that “Class did not relinquish his right to appeal the District Court’s constitutional determinations simply by pleading guilty.”
No one yet knows what fallout will result from this very recent SCOTUS case. At the very least, however, it gives new hope to federal white-collar crime defendants such as yourself that in the event you sign a plea agreement, you may be able to successfully appeal your conviction if you attack the plea agreement on constitutional grounds.
This is general information not intended to provide legal advice.