Baldwin & Briscoe P.C.
301-862-4400
22335 Exploration Drive Ste. 2030
Lexington Park, MD 20653
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What is a Plea Agreement and

 is it the Right Option for Me?

        In Maryland criminal procedure, a plea agreement is a contract between the State and the defendant to resolve a given set of criminal charges without having a trial.  When a defendant elects to enter into a plea agreement, that defendant chooses to give up certain rights that he or she would have if the case went to trial.  In most, but not all circumstances, the defendant receives some benefit from the state’s attorney in exchange for giving up these rights.  When a plea agreement is entered into, the defendant is, in most cases, admitting guilt and relieving the state of its burden of proof.

 

HOW PLEA AGREEMENTS WORK

        There are different ways in which a plea agreement may proceed.  There are six basic types of plea agreements that are set out in the Maryland Rules of Procedure. 

·         That the State’s Attorney will amend the charging document to charge a specified offense, add a specified offense, or will file a new charging document.

For instance, if the defendant is charged with a first degree assault, a felony which carries a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, the state could, as part of a plea agreement, amend the charge to a second degree assault.  A second degree assault is a misdemeanor which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine up to $2,500.  If the defendant takes the plea, he can guarantee that his sentence will be capped at 10 years, no matter how bad the judge thinks the case is.

·         The State’s Attorney will enter a nolle prosequi or make a motion that charges be placed on the stet docket.

A nolle prosequi is simply a fancy Latin term of the dismissing of charges.  When the state enters charges as nolle prosequi, the case is finished and the defendant is free.  Because no jeopardy attaches, the state is free to refile new charges.  If a case is entered as nolle prosequi based on a plea agreement, the state will only recharge the defendant according to the terms of the agreement. 

The stet docket is the court’s inactive docket.  It’s where criminal cases go to die.  It is essentially a postponement of the case, but the court does not set a new trial date.  Many times the state will agree to put cases on the stet docket in exchange for some action by the defendant, such as attending counseling or making restitution.  If the defendant fails to abide by the agreement, the state can bring the charges back to life.

·         The State’s Attorney will agree to an entry of judgment by acquittal on certain charges. 

     The state could agree to the entry of a judgment of acquittal on one charge in exchange for a plea or conviction on a different charge.

·         That the State will not charge the defendant with the commission of some other offense.

      Sometimes the state has information that a defendant may have committed a crime that is not being charged at that time.  The state may agree not to prosecute the defendant for certain conduct in exchange for a plea to other charges.

·         That the State’s Attorney will recommend, not oppose, or make no comment to the court with respect to a particular disposition or other judicial action. 

     Many times the defendant will enter into an agreement that in exchange for a plea, the state will not oppose a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ).  A PBJ is a procedural tool that allows a defendant to avoid a criminal conviction and keep a clean record.

·         That the parties will submit a plea agreement proposing a particular sentence, disposition, or other judicial action to a judge for consideration. 

     The judge is then free to accept or reject the plea agreement.  If the judge accepts the plea, the judge may approve the agreement or may defer its decision as to the approval or rejection until after a pre-sentence investigation is completed.

 

 

       There are additional ways in which a plea agreement may be reached, specific to the particular type of case at issue.  For instance, some offenses carry enhanced penalties for subsequent offenders or based on some other factor.  A plea may be entered whereby the defendant is to be sentenced as a first-time offender, even though he or she would normally qualify as a subsequent offender.

      Whether a plea agreement is the best option for any particular case requires a full evaluation of the evidence that the state can present at trial as well as any defenses that are available.  Only an experienced criminal defense attorney, who has reviewed the evidence in your case and is familiar with the particular crimes with which you have been charged can help you accurately assess whether a plea agreement is in your best interest. 

      If you have a pending criminal case, you may contact our office for a free in-person consultation.  At this consultation, we can help you evaluate any plea offer that has or might be made in your case, as well as possible defenses.  While we may not be able to tell you what is the best option for you, without further investigation, research and work on your case, we can give you a general idea of what might happen with your case.  We never charge for criminal defense consultations.

The information contained on this page is provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice.  The experienced attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. can assist you if you if you are facing criminal charges.  Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation, in-office-consultation for any criminal defense case.  The law offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. handle criminal cases in Maryland.

 

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. also offers these services:

Bankruptcy and ForeclosureBusiness LawCivil LitigationCriminal DefenseEmployment, Disability, and Consumer RightsFamily LawGovernment Contracts LawIntellectual Property, Personal InjuryReal Estate, Social Security Disability & Workers’ Compensation and Wills, Trusts, & Estates

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Us

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.

22335 Exploration Drive

Suite 2030

Lexington Park, MD 20653

301-862-4400 Phone

301-862-3009 Fax

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Samuel C.P. Baldwin, Jr., Esq.

Janice Briscoe, Esq.

Richard J. Steinmetz Jr., Esq.

David J. Hebb, Esq.

Sandra Kaufman Jonasen, Esq.


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With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Stienmetz, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.


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