Plea Bargaining Research Paper

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Plea Bargaining Research Paper



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Plea Bargaining - CrPc - Judiciary Prelims -

He was convicted after a jury trial on all counts. Ordinarily, he would have faced a year mandatory minimum sentence for that quantity of cocaine. But Paladin had two prior drug convictions in New Hampshire state court, one from and one from The judge in his case urged him to carefully consider whether to accept the plea, and the prosecutor laid out to Paladin in detail how he would lose at trial. But Paladin refused to plead. Paladin was convicted on all counts and on September 4, , was sentenced to life in prison. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Paul J. The prosecutor refused, saying there was no reason to do so. I understand it is a lawful sentence. The second, and any subsequent such convictions, carry year mandatory sentences, each to be served consecutive to the other.

The presence of guns near where drugs are held, or where a drug dealer lives can suffice. The cases suggest that as a practical matter, any drug dealer who owns a gun is at risk of being charged with possessing that gun to further his drug business, e. Moreover, the defendant can be convicted based on constructive possession. Sentencing Commission research indicates that in , 12 federal districts reported In , 3, drug trafficking defendants had sentences increased because a gun was involved in their offense. The remaining But among defendants who went to trial, She made the choice to go to trial. Describing the practice of prosecutors in his district, one federal public defender told us:.

In , Weldon Angelos a native of Salt Lake City, was a year-old father of two, and a music executive who had founded the hip hop label Extravagant Records. He was also a marijuana dealer, who the police believed dealt in sizable quantities of the drug. They also suspected that he was affiliated with Varrio Loco Town, a local gang. On three separate occasions in , a confidential informant made "controlled purchases" of eight ounces of marijuana from Angelos.

Angelos was arrested in November and consented to a search of his apartment. The search revealed three pounds of marijuana, a Glock pistol and two other firearms, a large amount of cash, and two opiate suckers. Police found additional marijuana, duffle bags containing marijuana residue, and two more firearms during a subsequent search of another house rented by Angelos. The confidential informant claimed Angelos carried a gun during two of the drug transactions. There was no evidence that Angelos pointed the guns at anyone, threatened to use them, or fired them.

The prosecution urged that the court adhere to the guidelines sentencing range of 78 to 97 months, for the remaining counts. Judge Cassell disagreed. In his sentencing memorandum, Judge Cassell argued that section c often resulted in sentences grossly disproportionate to the underlying offense. Finding himself powerless to avoid imposing an unduly harsh sentence on Angelos, in his sentencing memorandum Judge Cassell called on President George W.

In addition, since Angelos would not accept responsibility for his crimes, he believed the government should charge all the gun counts and let the jury decide. Prosecutors have the power to dismiss charges after trial but before sentencing. If he had dismissed two of the three counts on which Angelos was found guilty, for example, Angelos would have received a mandatory five-year sentence for the single firearm offense consecutive to his drug sentence.

The judge no doubt would have given Angelos a more typical sentence for his drug related conduct, but Angelos would not now be serving a sentence that will keep him behind bars into his old age. After a buy and bust methamphetamine operation involving a client of Mary Beth Looney and her husband, Donald Looney, the couple was arrested and their house searched. Within the residence, the police found approximately grams of actual methamphetamine and four weapons.

Mary Beth Looney and Donald Looney were indicted on April 8, , on charges of possessing with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine and of possessing three firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. On June 22, , the prosecutor obtained a superseding indictment adding two more counts: one for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, one for possession of a firearm in connection with the conspiracy to possess. The prosecutor offered Mary Beth Looney, who had no prior criminal record, a plea of 17 years. She did not think this was a good offer since it amounted to a life sentence for a woman of 52, and she rejected it. She and her husband were tried in December and convicted on all four counts. They were each sentenced to an aggregate of months—45 years—in prison: months concurrently on the two drug counts; [] 60 months for the first gun count to run consecutively to the drug counts; and months for the second gun conviction, to run consecutively after all the other sentences.

Anthonial Irick was arrested on May 8, , after a routine traffic stop led to the discovery of more than 5 kilograms of cocaine in a bag in the back of his pick-up truck and a gun in the console. Prosecutors indicted him for possession with intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine, a charge with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. The original indictment did not include a gun charge. Irick would have been eligible for a safety valve— i. She also agreed to stipulate in a plea agreement that the firearm was not related to the cocaine—a stipulation that would prevent Irick from receiving a sentencing enhancement under the guidelines for possessing the gun and thereby making him eligible for receiving a safety valve sentence below the ten-year mandatory minimum.

According to the prosecutor, if Irick had accepted the plea offer, he might have been sentenced to five or six years, not The prosecutor also told Irick that if he pursued his challenge to the legality of the traffic stop and subsequent search, she would withdraw the offer, explaining that once she had gone through a hearing on the motion to suppress, which is the equivalent of a mini trial, there would be little benefit to the government from a plea. Irick did not accept the offer, but rather went forward with the motion to suppress. Irick went to trial, was convicted of the drug and gun counts and was sentenced to 15 years—10 for the drugs and a consecutive 5 for the gun charge. In fiscal year , 15, individuals were convicted of an offense carrying a drug mandatory minimum penalty.

If drug defendants facing mandatory minimum penalties are able to secure relief through the safety valve or substantial assistance motions, the sentencing consequences are dramatic: for fiscal year , the average sentence for a drug trafficking defendant who received relief from a mandatory minimum was almost 5 years 59 months as compared to over 10 years months for the offender who did not see Figure 6. Under federal legislation, federal drug defendants can avoid mandatory minimum sentences and have their guidelines sentences reduced if they qualify for the federal safety valve. Qualifying defendants must have little or no prior criminal history i. Although it is up to the judge to determine whether a defendant qualifies for the safety valve, the prosecutor has significant input.

In fiscal year , the federal safety valve benefitted More than half of those had faced mandatory minimum sentences; the others received sentence reductions under the guidelines. The safety valve enables the judge to sentence below an otherwise applicable mandatory minimum. But the defendant is still subject to the guidelines. The guidelines themselves provide a two-level safety valve reduction in the offense level, with a corresponding decrease in sentencing range. But the mitigating impact of the two-level reduction can be minimal unless the judge is willing to impose an even lower sentence because the guidelines are now advisory. The applicable statutory minimum sentence for this quantity of heroin was 10 years; his guideline range was ten to twelve-and-a-half years.

The safety valve adjustment reduced his guidelines sentencing range to 97 to months, i. Because Diaz pled guilty, he was eligible for a three-level downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility, reducing his guidelines sentencing range to 70 to 87 months. The judge gave him an even lower sentence of four years in prison. Absent eligibility for the safety valve, the only way federal drug defendants can avoid otherwise applicable mandatory minimum sentences is to cooperate with the government pursuant to a plea agreement.

The sentencing regime permits substantially lower sentences for persons who assist the government. The possibility of a sentence reduction does not redeem mandatory sentences that are too high:. The prosecutor can choose to file a motion seeking a guidelines reduction or a reduction below the statutory minimum as well. Although not required by law, prosecutors typically require defendants to plead guilty as a prerequisite to being eligible for a substantial assistance motion.

The possibility of a reduced sentence is powerful motivation to cooperate with the government. Judge John Gleeson, who was a former federal prosecutor, told Human Rights Watch that before mandatory minimum sentences and the guidelines, it was hard for prosecutors to get people to testify in organized crime cases. Our data analysis for fiscal year shows 29 percent of drug defendants 4, individuals convicted of offenses carrying mandatory minimum sentences received relief for providing substantial assistance to the government.

As shown in the Appendix, the range varied from 5. In fiscal year , the median guideline sentence for all drug trafficking defendants was reduced Prosecutors control the ability of defendants to escape from mandatory minimum sentences through substantial assistance. Although an offender might want to cooperate, this is no guarantee that the prosecutors will agree. If, in the judgment of the prosecutors, the defendant has no new or important information to offer, prosecutors will decline to enter into a cooperation agreement with him.

Prosecutors typically want assistance in the prosecution of someone of equal or greater significance than the defendant. According to the Sentencing Commission, the highest rates of substantial assistance relief from mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders were for managers There is no uniformity among federal districts on many key aspects of sentencing reductions:. These substantial differences among prosecutors and in different districts mean that defendants with similar records who provide similar assistance may have radically different sentencing consequences in return for trying to cooperate with the government.

Even if defendants agree to provide substantial assistance and make their best efforts to do so, the government may not file the requisite substantial assistance motion. Individuals who participated in undercover investigations or who testified in court were more likely than not to receive substantial assistance departures, but even then the motions were not guaranteed. Defendants may plead guilty and give up their right to go to trial only to discover the prosecutors do not value their cooperation enough to make a substantial assistance motion. As one court noted,. In early , Jason Pepper—a year-old from Akron, Iowa—pled guilty to drug charges involving grams of methamphetamine, stipulating in his plea agreement to distributing between 1.

A first time, low-level, nonviolent offender, Pepper qualified for the safety valve, escaping the otherwise applicable year mandatory minimum sentence, but was still looking at a 97 to month guideline range. The government filed a substantial assistance motion recommending that he be given a 15 percent downward departure on the basis of his cooperation in the prosecution of other drug offenders. The government appealed on the grounds that this departure was too generous; the Eighth Circuit overturned and remanded for resentencing.

The government again appealed, the Eighth Circuit again overturned and this time ordered another resentencing by a different judge. She granted Pepper a 20 percent reduction and no further downward variance, imposing a 65 month sentence. Pepper was supposed to go back to court to serve another 41 months. By this time, it had been three years since Pepper had finished his two-year sentence. Pepper appealed, the Supreme Court overruled the Eighth Circuit and remanded. In the United States, plea bargaining, not trials, determine the fate of most criminal defendants. The Supreme Court has acknowledged the inevitability of plea bargaining.

The integrity and reasonableness of the plea bargaining process depends greatly on the quality of defense counsel and the motivations and interests of the defendant. But because of their inordinate power, even more rides on individual prosecutors and their supervisors. Prosecutorial discretion in deciding what cases to pursue and what charges to bring is indispensable to balance the many factors that must be considered in each case. When used judiciously it can deliver consistent and tailored results. Because adversarial trials are an important bulwark against official overreaching and protect the fundamental right to liberty, US trials are presided over by independent judges, defendants have the right to counsel, the government has the burden of proof, the defendant has the right against self-incrimination, and numerous evidentiary and other rules seek to ensure the fairness of the trial process.

Appellate review provides additional layers of transparency and protection. In contrast, plea bargaining in federal drug cases offers little or no guarantees of transparency, discovery, and fair play. Judicial and appellate review of the plea bargaining process is also limited and superficial. Nevertheless, plea bargaining has become ubiquitous in the United States. Its defenders argue that plea bargaining permits more efficient resolution of criminal cases.

The assumption is the parties are rational economic actors and they jointly agree on a plea that enables the defendant to avoid the anxieties and uncertainties of a trial and to save the government from having to expend the resources necessary to try the case and to spare it the possibility of an acquittal. They also consider plea bargains legitimate to the extent they allocate punishment fairly, i. Prosecutors can put such pressure on defendants to plead that even innocent defendants may succumb.

A recent analysis of trial data suggests that even defendants with strong cases and good chances of acquittal at trial are choosing to plead because of the enormous sentencing benefit of doing so compared to the sentencing risks they face should they lose at trial. Prosecutors face professional and institutional pressures that encourage them to secure convictions through pleas. Pleading benefits us by saving resources. Defense counsel can do their best, but in federal drug cases they have relatively few bargaining chips and they have to counsel their clients accordingly, including clients who strongly reject guilty pleas.

And everyone knows it. The process by which the guilty plea is secured can vary considerably in practice. The greatest likelihood of a defendant getting a good plea offer often occurs between the initial complaint and the indictment. The plea may follow a single offer from the prosecutor; it may take numerous plea offers before the defendant agrees. There is no transparency to the plea process. There are no formal rules governing whatever give and take occurs. While some federal prosecutors may reveal their evidence to defense counsel to stress the strength of their case and the wisdom of a plea, others do not.

Defense counsel may have to evaluate the risks of trial in the dark. Under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the prosecutor may agree in a plea agreement that the government will,. Some prosecutors refuse to offer any concessions in exchange for a guilty plea unless they want the defendant to cooperate with them. Defense lawyers told us that when prosecutors refuse to offer concessions, and they do not believe their client would escape conviction after a trial, they may advise their clients to plead guilty to the charges in the indictment without a plea agreement.

When a prosecutor will consider a plea agreement, the negotiations typically involve one or more of the following: fact-bargaining, charge bargaining, and sentence bargaining. A prosecutor should not stipulate to facts he suspects or believes to be false as part of a deal with the defendant; he should not deliberately mislead the court—or the probation officer who prepares the presentencing report the judge will use to help determine the appropriate sentence. The prosecutor may agree to recommend or not to oppose a reduction for minor or minimal role even when the facts do not support that recommendation.

The pressure is placed upon the defendant by bringing a multi-count indictment and then trading away charges or counts more difficult to prove in return for a guilty plea to other counts or lesser charges. If the defendant agrees to waive her right to trial, the prosecutors then agree not to file the additional charges. Federal judges have little to do with the plea process itself; indeed, federal law prohibits them from participating in plea negotiations.

Joseph Ida was indicted in March and, along with other defendants, charged with being part of a cocaine and marijuana distribution conspiracy in New York City. The charges carried a year mandatory minimum and a maximum of life. As shown in the chart below, the government made four plea offers to Ida. Under the terms of the first offer, Ida would plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute kilograms of cocaine with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a guidelines sentencing range of 8 to 10 years 97 to months.

In the next plea offer, the government sweetened the offer by offering to let Ida plead guilty to a lesser included offense—an unspecified quantity of drugs—which removed the mandatory minimum and made Ida eligible for a sentence of 0 to 20 years. Ida pled guilty and on August 9 , he was sentenced to 63 months. Prosecutors are not gladiators fighting for victory in a criminal justice arena. They are representatives of the United States. Most legal and ethical obligations of prosecutors address misconduct and malfeasance, e. Federal prosecutors should not file criminal charges or threaten to do so in plea bargaining when they do not believe the charges are supported by the evidence.

But if the evidence is there, prosecutors may file or threaten to file whatever charges they choose. But the absence of utter arbitrariness is not the same as ensuring justice. To our knowledge, the Department of Justice has never explicitly encouraged or directed prosecutors to exercise their charging and plea negotiation authority to secure just sentences for all convicted defendants. On the contrary, Department of Justice policy has long encouraged prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious offense with the longest sentence consistent with his conduct that is likely to result in a sustainable conviction.

But he also insisted that charging decisions should be made in the context of,. Indeed, equal justice depends on individualized justice, and smart law enforcement demands it. In August , at a meeting of the American Bar Association, Holder publicly announced that federal laws were sending too many people to prison for too long, called for a rethinking of the role of prison sentences in promoting public safety and, more specifically, pledged his support for reform of federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Not waiting for Congress to act, he also issued a memorandum to federal prosecutors on charging and sentencing. As discussed below, his new charging policies, while welcome, are weakened by defective criteria and premises that may decrease their efficacy, even for the limited category of defendants to which they ostensibly apply.

In a speech before the American Bar Association in August, Holder acknowledged mandatory minimum sentences can lead to unduly harsh sentences for certain low-level drug offenders and he announced changes in charging policies for such offenders. He said,. Holder directed federal prosecutors to decline to file charges carrying mandatory sentences against certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders.

According to one analysis, only about of the more than 15, defendants convicted in FY might have received a lower sentence if the Holder memo had been in force then and fully implemented by line prosecutors. Finally, we note that Holder acknowledges there may be charges filed that trigger mandatory minimum sentences for a defendant who prosecutors come to learn is a low-level, nonviolent offender.

Holder notes the defendant could plead guilty to a lesser included offense. Such a scenario would leave the defendant forced to forgo trial in order to secure a fair sentence. Holder instructed prosecutors considering whether to file the enhancement to consider factors such as whether the defendant had a significant role in a criminal organization, used violence, the nature of his criminal history, and other factors. Some current and former US Attorneys and assistant US attorneys describe a prosecutorial culture that values high sentences. One former US Attorney told us,. When pressed about the fairness of sentences that result from their decisions, prosecutors deflected responsibility for the outcomes, whether by plea or trial.

Some prosecutors also told us that judges set the sentences. The sentence is a function of the charge. But when sentences are triggered by mandatory minimums and still powerful, albeit now advisory, sentencing guidelines that prosecutors can readily manipulate, prosecutors cannot legitimately disclaim responsibility for the sentences defendants receive. There are certainly prosecutors who do seek reasonable sentences. Our office did a good job of avoiding unjust results…. We made decisions on the right basis. I will make choices to avoid outcomes that would be unfair.

Some prosecutors we spoke to took pride in making reasonable offers to lower or dismiss charges or to agree not to file higher charges to try to ensure low-level offenders do not receive lengthy sentences more appropriate for significant traffickers. We have no way to determine how many of the lower sentences obtained through plea bargaining are in fact fair, i. Our research does leave us sure that the intentional quest for fairness varies by individual prosecutors and by district. We are also sure that any quest for fairness ends once a defendant insists on standing trial. If a defendant rejects a plea offer and chooses to go to trial, prosecutors will at the very least try him on the original charges, even if they carry sentences the prosecutors believe are higher than necessary based on his conduct and culpability.

A former prosecutor acknowledged,. Prosecutors endorsed the goal of using the sentencing differential to pressure defendants to waive their right to trial. We asked many prosecutors if they were troubled by the discrepancy between a plea offer of, say, 15 years and a post-trial sentence of 30 years or life without parole. They were not. They see it as part and parcel of plea bargaining.

He was fully informed and rolled the dice. Otherwise no one would ever plead guilty. Asked if the higher sentence post-conviction would satisfy requirements of proportionality and being no greater than necessary to serve the purposes of punishment, prosecutors essentially dodged the question. They fell back on the notion that defendants could have taken a plea and thereby avoided the higher sentence. Every time a prosecutor makes good on a threat to seek higher sentences for a defendant who will not plead has a chilling effect in other cases.

This is one of the reasons prosecutors carry out their threats. They want their threats to be effective at securing pleas in the current and future cases. To do so, they cannot get a reputation for bluffing or walking away from the possibility of hitting defendants who will not plead with higher sentences. Prosecutors may realize making good on their threat will lead to an excessive and unfair sentence, but maintaining their credibility often appears to take priority. The prosecutor told the judge,. In this section we present statistics that quantify the significantly longer sentences drug defendants receive if they go to trial rather than plead guilty.

We think they nonetheless illuminate the sentencing risk defendants face if they refuse to plead. As seen in Table 3, the mean sentence for all drug trafficking offenses in which conviction was obtained by plea was 5 years, 4 months, and the mean sentence for cases in which conviction was obtained at trial was 16 years, i. If we look at average sentences for drug offenders by type of drug involved in the offense, the sentence received after trial is also about three times longer than the sentence after pleading.

Defendants who pled guilty were more likely to receive sentences below the guideline range than those who went to trial: 56 percent of those who pled received lower than guideline range sentences compared to 33 percent of those convicted after trial. Pleading also greatly reduces the sentences for defendants convicted of offenses carrying mandatory minimum sentences. As shown in Figure 9, for federal drug offenders convicted of drug offenses carrying mandatory minimum penalties, the average sentence of those who pled guilty was 6 years, 10 months compared to 17 years, 11 months for defendants convicted after trial—a difference of 11 years.

The most commonly imposed mandatory minimum penalties for drug trafficking offenses are those with a minimum of 5 years 6, individuals, or 28 percent of convicted drug offenders and 10 years 7, individuals, or For those convicted by plea of offenses carrying the 5-year minimum, their average sentence was 5 years, 3 months compared to 9 years, 3 months for those convicted after trial. For who pled and faced a minimum of ten years, their average sentence was 7 years, 11 months; for those who were convicted after trial, the average sentence was 18 years, 3 months.

Critical to the lower sentences defendants convicted of offenses carrying mandatory minimum penalties receive if they plead instead of going to trial, is the fact that defendants who plead are more likely to receive relief from mandatory sentences. As shown in Table 4, only 4. This no doubt helps explain why, in Figure 9, the average sentence of defendants who pled guilty to offenses carrying mandatory minimums was 11 years lower than the sentence of those who went to trial.

It also helps explain why in Figure 10, among defendants facing mandatory minimum penalties of 10 years or more, the average sentence for those who pled was below that minimum. We realize the differences in average sentences to some unknown extent may reflect salient differences among the individual cases that we cannot identify or quantify, e. Such factors could affect the sentence wholly apart from whether the defendants pled or went to trial. To more carefully assess the trial penalty, we created a sample of drug offender cases that were similar in important respects except for the fact that some of the defendants pled guilty while others went to trial.

The sample consists of all federal drug defendants in FY who were subject to drug mandatory minimum penalties, who had little or no criminal history they fall in criminal history category I , who did not have a weapon involved in their offense, and who all had base offense level of 32 under the guidelines based on the quantity of the drug involved. In this group, as shown in Figure 11, defendants who went to trial received average sentence of 9 years, 10 months, compared to the average sentence of 4 years, 11 months for those who pled. Among defendants matched in the most relevant sentencing factors, those who went to trial received sentences just about twice as long as those who pled. We also looked at this sample to determine the likelihood of receiving relief from the mandatory minimums.

Among those who pled, 87 percent received some form of relief; among those who went to trial, only 22 percent received relief. Defendants who pled and received some form of relief had average sentences considerably lower than those who went to trial, with the length varying by kind of relief received. When comparing sentences among all drug offenders who pled guilty or went to trial, we know the sentences to some unknown— and unknowable—extent may reflect legitimate and important differences among the defendants in the two groups, e. But when we look at defendants receiving increased sentencing penalties based on prior convictions or the presence of guns in their offense, data is available to determine who was eligible for such penalties as well as who had the penalties applied.

We can determine the different rates at which the penalties were applied according to whether defendants pled or went to trial. By doing so, we can more precisely delineate the trial penalty in these cases. As noted, defendants who are eligible for a sentencing enhancement because of prior convictions are 8. This differential application already testifies to a trial penalty. Prosecutors are willing to reduce the number of prior convictions for defendants who plead, and this may be reflected in their shorter sentences.

Avoiding the enhancement had a significant sentencing impact—their sentences were on average five years shorter than the sentences of defendants who also pled but had the enhancement applied. It is also notable that among the defendants who were eligible for the enhancement but it was not applied, the average sentence of those who went to trial was nine years longer than the sentence of those who pled. The chance to receive a substantial assistance motion depends on the willingness of the defendant to plead, and thus the lack of such an opportunity becomes part of the trial penalty for those who go to trial.

The federal sentencing regime for drug offenders has transferred significant sentencing power from an independent federal judiciary with no personal stake in the outcome of a case, to prosecutors, representatives of the executive branch with personal, as well as institutional, interests in securing convictions. Judges have more sentencing discretion now than they did under the regime of mandatory sentencing guidelines. But their hands are still tied by mandatory minimum sentencing legislation and the guidelines continue to constrain many of their sentencing decisions. The mandatory sentences are the most troubling.

Because of them, judges lack the discretion to countermand prosecutorial charging decisions that yield disproportionately long or cruelly excessive sentences. Prosecutors can charge or threaten to charge offenses carrying high sentences to force defendants to plead and they can use them to punish defendants who choose to go to trial. Prosecutors have many functions, but sentencing is not one of them. Nor should it be. However responsible and conscientious prosecutors are in the exercise of their discretion, they represent the executive branch. Their principal role in the criminal justice system is to serve the public by investigating and prosecuting cases against defendants whom they believe guilty of crime.

In contrast, judges—who have life tenure—have the independence to serve only the law. Most people would agree that a defendant presented with the choice of pleading to a year sentence or receiving a life sentence if convicted after trial is being coerced. In the infamous case of Bordenkircher v. Hayes , the Supreme Court gave a green light to prosecutors to secure pleas through inducements or threats—including by threats of far greater punishment for exercising the right to trial.

The prosecutor offered to recommend a sentence of five years if Hayes agreed to plead guilty. Hayes refused to plead, the prosecutor indicted and convicted him as a habitual offender, and Hayes was sentenced to life in prison. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party, codifies the right to trial and the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt.

In Germany, for example, the Federal Constitutional Court has emphasized that a defendant must not be pressed to confess through threats of a higher sentence. Where the differential between a bargained for sentence and a sentence proportionate to the offense is too great, appellate courts may step in. In July , Hall began a relationship with Johnnie Martin, a man with a history of abusing women, which he continued in his relationship with Hall. He was also the leader of a large-scale drug operation: his organization obtained crack, powder cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana from suppliers in Atlanta, Georgia and redistributed them in the Knoxville, Tennessee area where Martin was based. In May of , law enforcement agents executed search warrants for each of the stash houses.

Hall was arrested at one of the houses in which drugs and paraphernalia were found along with a gun under a couch cushion. In May , a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Hall, Martin, and 10 others. The original indictment charged Hall with a single count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and crack. It did not include charges for marijuana, any other drugs, or possession of the firearms. In June , the prosecution informed the defendants that if any of them wished to enter a plea agreement, they needed to do so before a superseding indictment with additional charges was filed.

Plea negotiations apparently continued between Hall and the government, but ultimately did not bear fruit. In June , Hall was tried and convicted of all five counts set forth in the superseding indictment. She was sentenced to a total of months She was also sentenced to 60 months on the marijuana charge and a sentence of months on the money laundering charge, both of which ran concurrently with the above. But the court found that it was reasonably foreseeable that Hall knew of the existence and purpose of the firearms to further the drug business. On appeal, Hall unsuccessfully argued that the additional charges in the superseding indictment were improperly added in retaliation for her refusal to enter into a plea agreement.

The appellate court also rejected her arguments that the sentence she received was unconstitutionally cruel. In theory, the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits as cruel and unusual punishment sentences that are grossly disproportionate to the crime. Drug defendants facing sentences of decades and even life in prison for the nonviolent distribution of drugs have argued such sentences are unconstitutionally disproportionate. Their arguments fall on deaf ears. In Harmelin v. Michigan, the Supreme Court upheld a life without parole sentence for a year-old first-offender convicted of transporting a pound of cocaine.

Even when federal courts consider long drug sentences to be excessively severe, they do not rule them unconstitutional. For example, a federal appeals court assessed the constitutionality of the year sentence Mary Beth Looney, a first time offender, received for selling methamphetamine from her house and possessing guns in the house. We guarantee the authenticity of your paper, whether it's an essay or a dissertation. Furthermore, we ensure the confidentiality of your personal information, so the chance that someone will find out about your using our essay writing service is slim to none. We do not share any of your information to anyone. When it comes to essay writing, an in-depth research is a big deal. Our experienced writers are professional in many fields of knowledge so that they can assist you with virtually any academic task.

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But now the Memoirs King George III Persuasive Speech has been abandoned as unworkable Flat Tax System Essay its Manifest Destiny Imperialism and no Member hillary clinton murderer the Court today hillary clinton murderer the Memoirs Women In Alexandria And Pompeii. Among those who pled, 87 Plea Bargaining Research Paper received some form of relief; among those who Flat Tax System Essay to trial, only 22 percent received relief. While some federal Plea Bargaining Research Paper may reveal their evidence to defense counsel to stress Denis Diderot: The Ethicality Of Human Experimentation strength of their case and the wisdom hillary clinton murderer a plea, others do not. Gun Control And Mass Shootings sentencing someone to die in prison Women In Alexandria And Pompeii nonviolent drug dealing Women In Alexandria And Pompeii be justified.