Can a Judge Refuse a Joint Bargain?
In a nutshell, yes, a judge can reject a plea bargain. However, this is not as easy to understand as it sounds. Generally, in exchange for pleading guilty or no contest to a crime, the prosecution offers a plea bargain whereby the defendant will plead guilty to the crime. This is commonly known as a “convertible” plea deal. The defendant still has the option of contesting the charge, however, he must do so with the assistance of a competent attorney.
If the prosecutor decides to accept the plea bargain, there is an opportunity that the judge will enter a not guilty verdict. If the defendant moves for a verdict of not guilty, the judge will dismiss the plea because the charges against the defendant have been admitted. This does not mean, however, that the judge will allow the prosecution to frame the charges against the defendant. He or she will not enter a verdict on the side of the defendant.
It is possible that the prosecution attempts to use this tactic on its own. Sometimes they will offer a guilty plea in order to try to build a relationship with the defense. Other times they may actually accept the guilty plea in an effort to get the case dismissed before trial. Again, if the defense does not charge the prosecution with any criminal conduct, the judge will refuse to allow the plea.
Some prosecutors will attempt to negotiate a plea bargain outside of the courtroom. If they believe the defendant is guilty, they may attempt to persuade the judge to accept a plea bargain that avoids a trial. This approach is often used when the defendant does not understand the nature of the plea agreement. Often, if the defendant objects, the judge will enter a not guilty verdict and then offer the defendant the chance to accept the plea bargain. Again, if the defendant objects, the judge may again enter a verdict of not guilty and offer the defendant the chance to enter a guilty plea.
The two most common ways that plea bargain negotiations are conducted are inside the courtroom and through the court of appeals. Often, the prosecution requests the judge to accept a plea bargain outside of the courtroom. They may even present the case to the judge as a plea bargaining issue. When a plea bargain is agreed upon outside of the court system, the plea deal is forwarded to the appeals court for approval.
Outside of the courtroom, plea bargain negotiations can also occur. These negotiations usually occur when a defendant is aware that he has limited time to get a favorable plea before his trial date. In some cases, the prosecution is willing to accept a plea bargain outside of the court system in an attempt to get a more favorable disposition for their client. In other instances, the prosecutor is not willing to accept a plea bargain outside of the courtroom. Regardless of whether the plea bargain is offered outside of the courtroom, if the judge agrees to it, the defendant must enter a guilty plea in order to be guilty of the charge.