The language in a plea agreement must be precise, and little details that seem innocuous or irrelevant can wind up having profound, life-changing implications.
New York, New York (PRWEB) May 21, 2013
In his latest look at seminal cases that have shaped and defined United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.), Federal appeals lawyer Stephen N. Preziosi is focusing on Freeman v. United States 131 S. Ct. 2685, in which the Supreme Court affirmed that, despite a plea agreement, defendants may be eligible for a reduced sentence per a retroactive revision of the Sentencing Guidelines.
In 2005, the defendant and petitioner Freeman pled guilty to various offenses, including possession with intent to supply cocaine base, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime. The plea agreement stated that “both parties have independently reviewed the Sentencing Guidelines applicable in this case…a sentence of 106 months’ incarceration is the appropriate disposition of this case…[the defendant] agrees to have his sentence determined pursuant to the Sentencing Guidelines."
In 2008, the Sentencing Commission retroactively reduced the sentencing range for cocaine base-related offenses. As a result, Freeman argued that he was entitled to a reduced sentence. The Court of Appeals rejected his argument in light of the 2005 plea agreement, which in the Court’s view, showed no evidence of two conditions that would trigger a revision: a miscarriage of justice, or a mutual mistake.
Freeman then appealed to the US Supreme Court, which in 2011 reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision and held that defendants are entitled to apply for a reduced sentence in light of changes to the applicable sentencing range.
Notably, while five of the Supreme Court Justices sided with Freeman, their reasons were not unanimous.
Speaking for the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy stated that when a defendant’s plea agreement is based on the Sentencing Guidelines, he or she may apply for a reduced sentence per 18 USC s3582 c 2, which allows for a Guidelines-based sentence to be reduced in light of a retrospective amendment.
However, Justice Sotomayer took the view that a defendant’s plea agreement should be based on the agreement itself, and not on the prevailing Sentencing Guidelines. However, in this specific case, Freeman’s 2005 plea agreement did in fact expressly reference the Guidelines, and as such he was entitled to apply for a reduced sentence.
“While the Supreme Court’s judgment on this important case is insightful, the opinion expressed by Justice Sotomayer is illuminating,” commented New York City-based Federal appeals lawyer Stephen N. Preziosi, whose practice is based in Times Square. “It highlights how critically important is for defendant’s to retain qualified, competent and experienced counsel when they are entering into a plea agreement. Just because they do not intend to go to trial does not mean they should take short cuts on counsel. The language in a plea agreement must be precise, and little details that seem innocuous or irrelevant can wind up having profound, life-changing implications.”
Mr. Preziosi’s full analysis of Freeman v. United States 131 S. Ct. 2685 is available on his firm’s website at http://www.newyorkappellatelawyer.com/revision-of-the-sentencing-guidelines-and-eligibility-for-reduced-sentences
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Federal appeals lawyer Stephen N. Preziosi handles criminal appeals in all U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and in New York State Appellate Courts (including Appellate Divisions and the New York Court of Appeals). Whether a case is under the Penal Law in New York State Courts or under Federal Law in the U.S. District Courts, Mr. Preziosi has extensive experience with all types of appellate matters in both the New York State Courts and the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. Mr. Preziosi has pursued appellate cases in the Appellate Divisions, the Appellate Terms and the highest court in the State of New York, the New York Court of Appeals. He has also taken on cases in the various U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and successfully identified legal issues, designed and written briefs and conducted oral argument. The firm’s practice is concentrated in the area of appeals in criminal matters in both State and Federal Courts, and Mr. Preziosi recently launched a United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG) awareness campaign to help the general public learn more about this critically important and influential aspect of criminal law.
Learn more at http://www.newyorkappellatelawyer.com