Earlier this month, a Michigan man was scheduled to plead guilty to several counts of drug distribution. According to one local news, however, at the trial date where the man was supposed to plead guilty, the judge presiding over the case noticed that the man was not fully understanding what was going on in the proceeding. The judge ordered that the case be continued so that the man’s attorney could either explain what was going on to the man or so that the man’s competency could be assessed.
The Charges The man was facing four counts of heroin distribution, which were listed as fifth-, fourth-, third-, and second-degree felonies. Each of these alleged crimes, if resulting in a conviction, could carry with them a lengthy prison sentence, substantial fines, court costs, and other restrictions on the man’s liberty.
Understanding the Nature of the Charges and the Proceeding The law requires that people facing serious criminal sanctions be aware of the seriousness of what they are facing and understand the consequences of their actions. This is especially the case in plea negotiations, where a defendant may agree to plead guilty to an offense for a negotiated offer from the prosecution.
Before a judge is permitted to accept a plea from a defendant, the judge must be assured that the defendant is aware of what he or she is doing, and that he or she was not pressured or coerced into that course of action by the prosecutor or their own attorney. This is often done through what is called a “colloquy.” A colloquy is a series of questions, asked by the judge or the prosecutor, to ensure that the defendant is aware of what they are doing. If a judge is not satisfied that a defendant is making a knowledgeable, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his or her rights, the judge is permitted to refuse the plea offer.
Having a knowledgeable and dedicated attorney who is available to take the time to explain the law and all the repercussions of a plea bargain is a necessity in today’s criminal justice system. With many cases resulting in some kind of plea agreement, it is crucial that an attorney sit down with a client and discuss the merits of the prosecution’s offer, the strengths and weaknesses of the case, and the potential collateral consequences of accepting the plea and pleading guilty.
Plea bargains can be a good result for some clients, but not for all. An attorney should never pressure a client into accepting a plea.
Have You Been Charged with a Michigan Drug Offense? If you have recently been charged with a Michigan drug crime, you may be facing a lengthy prison term, fines, and other serious restrictions on your liberty. Be sure to speak with a dedicated Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and to see what options are out there. If the evidence against you is strong, considering a plea agreement may be a viable course of action. However, fighting the case is also always an option. To learn more about how to fight a Michigan drug case, call Attorney Steven Schwartz at (240) 930-5019 to set up a free consultation.