John Wesley Hall

Can you rescind a plea bargain?

If you face federal white collar crime charges in Arkansas, the prosecutor likely will offer you a plea agreement. As Forbes reports, upwards of 90% of federal defendants enter into a plea bargain.

Despite the fact that a plea bargain may well represent the best way to dispose of your case, however, you need to realize that a plea bargain can present you with substantial negatives such as the following:

  • You give up your constitutional right to a trial by a jury of your peers.
  • You will have to verbally plead guilty to the charges against you in open court.
  • You normally give up the right to appeal your conviction.
  • You normally cannot rescind your plea bargain.

But notice the word “normally” in those last two bullet points.

Supreme Court ruling

When the U.S. Supreme Court heard the recent case of Class v. United States, the Justices gave convicted white collar offenders new hope in rescinding their plea bargains on appeal. In this case, Class had signed a plea agreement in which he admitted to carrying a gun in the locked safe of his Jeep at the time he parked the vehicle in a Washington, D.C. parking lot that happened to be a gun-free zone.

Despite the fact that the judge imposed a very favorable penalty on Class after his conviction, Class nevertheless appealed his conviction on the following grounds:

  • He did not know about the Washington, D.C. statute banning firearms in that particular parking lot.
  • The parking lot sign violated his right to due process.
  • The statute itself violated his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
  • He possessed a valid license from North Carolina, his home state, that allowed him to keep his gun in his Jeep’s locked safe.
  • The plea bargain he signed did not waive his right to appeal.

When Class’s appeal reached the appellate court, it dismissed it, holding that his plea agreement implied, rather than explicitly stated, that he could not appeal his conviction. When Class appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, however, the Justices found in his favor and overruled the appellate court. One of the things the Justices stated was that “Class did not relinquish his right to appeal the District Court’s constitutional determinations simply by pleading guilty.”

The fallout from the Class case continues, with no one being absolutely certain of its ramifications. But you should know that if you challenge your white collar plea bargain conviction on constitutional grounds, you stand a good chance of winning your appeal.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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