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Basic Guide to Plea Bargaining Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Volume: 7 Issue: 2 Dated: (Summer 1992) Pages: 14-21
W L Gardner; D S Rifkind
Date Published
8 pages
This article provides guidelines for defense attorneys in devising and assessing plea-bargain options under Federal sentencing guidelines.
The U.S. Justice Department has developed four types of plea agreements that can be negotiated: charge agreements, recommendation agreements, specific sentence agreements, and fact-stipulation agreements. A charge agreement is an agreement that certain charges will not be pursued or will be dropped. The defendant can pick the crime with the most favorable sentencing scheme under the sentencing guidelines. Under a recommendation agreement, the prosecutor will recommend a particular sentence or will not oppose a sentence request made by the defendant. Under a specific sentence agreement, the court will impose a specific sentence within the guidelines range or a specific sentence that departs from the guidelines range for justifiable reasons. A fact-stipulation agreement is not a separate plea-bargaining tactic under the rules or guidelines. Such agreements support part of one of the other three types of agreements. This article discusses preindictment and postindictment plea bargaining, adjustments to the offense level of the offenses charged, departures from the guidelines, multicount indictments, and fines and restitution. The authors also provide guidance on whether to negotiate a plea or proceed to trial, how to calculate sentences under the guidelines, and the importance of defense preparation for plea bargaining.