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Open Pleas in Federal Court


When someone is accused of a crime, they may wind up sitting in jail for a while, pending trial. The more serious the offense, the more likely bail will be high enough that the person cannot reasonably afford to post bond and secure their release. This creates tons of anxiety and dread for most people – especially those who may have never been in police custody before. This can lead a person to make ill-informed or reactionary decisions that have severe and lifelong consequences. Before accepting any sort of deal from the government, always speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer first. Sometimes, when guilt is obvious and there are limited defenses, some people opt for an “open plea.”  But before you do that, here are some things to consider.

How Common Are Arrests? 

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, roughly the same number of working adults in America have criminal records as do those who have college degrees. With one-third of American adults having some form of criminal record, it’s worth understanding the process a bit more. Once a person is arrested, their personal information and identification characteristics are logged. Then they are held in a detention facility or jail until a first appearance in front of a judge. It is at that time that the judge advises the individual of the charges, potential sentence if convicted, and asks whether the person will have an attorney or not. Ideally, one would want to have an attorney already, but this sometimes does not happen.

Guilty Pleas in Federal Court 

There are strategic reasons why someone may wish to plead guilty to a crime. For instance, if a person is clearly guilty and realizes that the chances of conviction at trial are high, it may be better off to negotiate a plea that is potentially less prison time or less serious than what the person could face if convicted at trial. The other option, however, is an “open plea.” An open plea just means that there is no negotiated deal. The defendant simply admits guilt and proceeds to sentencing. There are three times when this may be advantageous:

  • Open and release. The government agrees to release the defendant after the guilty plea, and the defendant will just have to come back to court later for sentencing. Some people take the open plea in order to buy them time to be with family and make arrangements for prison, if it is likely they will receive a prison sentence.
  • Time to Improve Circumstances. In some instances, a person may be dealing with a very specific problem that could be repaired or improved if given a few months. Perhaps the individual needs therapy or drug counseling. Maybe a victim has been deprived of money that the defendant could repay if given the time. In these cases, a guilty defendant may take a gamble that if released, he or she could pay restitution to the victim, get counseling, or do other positive things that may influence a judge to go light at sentencing. It’s a big risk, but depending on the crime, the judge, and what actions are taken, it can be a winning strategy.
  • Better Odds With the Judge. Finally, there are times when an attorney may feel that the government’s offer is overly harsh and that the judge would likely give a lighter sentence.

No matter what, you should never take a deal or plead guilty to a crime until you have sat down and discussed it with a Fort Lauderdale federal crime attorney. At the office of Bruce L. Udolf, P.A., our team has decades of experience helping accused individuals protect their rights and futures. If you’re facing criminal charges, give us a call or visit us online today.



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