Blind Plea

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What is a Blind Plea?

A blind plea is a guilty plea without a set sentence. This is different than a standard plea bargain, in which the defense and prosecution agree on a guilty plea, and in exchange, the prosecution will recommend a lighter sentence.

A blind plea is accompanied by no such agreement, thus leaving it up to the judge to sentence the defendant as he or she sees fit (within the bounds of the law).

How Does Entering a Blind Plea Differ from Plea Bargaining?

A blind plea is very risky. After all, it involves the defendant throwing himself at the mercy of the court, in the purest sense of the expression. In most plea bargains, the prosecution agrees to recommend a reduced sentence (it is the judge, not the prosecutor, who has the final say over sentencing), which the judge usually follows. However, if the judge does not follow the prosecution’s recommendation, and imposes a tougher sentence, the defendant can change his or her plea to "not guilty" and proceed with a trial. A blind plea does not give the defendant this option. The defendant is basically stuck with whatever sentence the judge might impose.

What are Some Practical Consequences of Entering a Blind Plea?

A criminal defendant must understand that his blind plea will effectively cancel all his defenses. A defendant wouldn't be able to avoid conviction for a serious crime by making a blind plea to a lesser included offense. In place of a blind plea, a defendant may consider entering a no-contest plea. Unlike blind plea, a no-contest plea preserves the defenses and allows plea bargaining for a criminal defendant.

Why Would Anyone Seek a Blind Plea?

Still, there are some reasons why a defendant might take a blind plea bargain. For example, if the judge has a record of going easy on people who plead guilty, or if the prosecution has a very good case, a blind plea might be a risk worth taking. A defendant may take a blind plea when there is no lesser included offense to plea bargain for, or when a very unfavorable plea bargain is imposed by the prosecution.

Seeking Attorney Advice

In most other cases, however, it is probably best to seek a favorable plea bargain, or to plead "not guilty" and take your chances at trial. Your defense attorney is the person to ask for advice in this situation, and is in the best position to decide which course of action to take. Be careful about making a blind plea or engaging in plea bargaining without understanding clearly the consequences of entering different types of pleas.

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Last Modified: 07-29-2013 03:05 PM PDT

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