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).
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. As a practical matter, there are few reasons why a defendant would want to do this. After all, even if the prosecution refuses a plea bargain, the defendant can still plead “not guilty” and force the prosecution to make its case.
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.
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.
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Last Modified: 10-14-2011 04:33 PM PDT