The Supreme Court has established new guidelines for criminal plea bargains. Defense attorneys must do a “competent job advising and informing their clients of prosecutors’ offers of less prison time for convictions and guilty pleas,” regardless of whether they believe their client should accept the plea. Attorneys who do not give their clients this information and good advice will violate the Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel during criminal proceedings.
The new guidelines come from two cases recently before the Supreme Court. In Missouri v. Frye, Galin Frye’s attorney did not inform him of the plea bargain offers before Frye pleaded guilty to driving with a revoked license. Missouri v. Frye, 566 U. S. ____ (2012). In Laffler v. Cooper, Anthony Cooper was convicted of assault with intent to murder after his attorney advised him to reject a plea offer. Laffler v. Cooper, 566 U. S. ____ (2012).
Justice Kennedy sent both convictions back down to the lower court. In Frye, the lower court will now determine whether prosecutors would have been required to stick to their offer to Frye, because he was rearrested on the same charge of driving with a revoked license less than a week before his preliminary hearing. In Cooper, Justice Kennedy said prosecutors should reoffer Cooper the plea bargain offer for a shorter prison term.
“This court now holds that, as a general rule, defense counsel has the duty to communicate formal offers from the prosecution to accept a plea on terms and conditions that may be favorable to the accused,” Kennedy said regarding Frye’s case “… When the defense counsel allowed the offer to expire without advising the defendant or allowing him to consider it, defense counsel did not render the effective assistance the Constitution requires.”
Added Justice Kennedy, for Cooper “if a plea bargain has been offered, a defendant has the right to effective assistance of counsel in considering whether to accept it. If that right is denied, prejudice can be shown if loss of the plea opportunity led to a trial resulting in a conviction on more serious charges or the imposition of a more severe sentence.”
Under Nevada law, all attorneys already have an ethical obligation to convey all offers of negotiation to their clients.
The Las Vegas law office of Lagomarsino Law did not represent anyone involved in the above-referenced case. The commentary is for educational and commentary purposes only. If you would like to be represented by a Nevada attorney, contact our office for a free confidential case review and receive a response within hours. Call Toll Free 866-414-0400.