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What is an open plea?

Tampa criminal lawyers are often asked about what an open plea actually entails.  An open plea is a plea, where there is no agreement for a specific sentence with the prosecutor, be it the State Attorney’s Office or the United States Attorney’s Office.   While the overwhelming majority of pleas involve an agreed upon sentence and resolution, the resolution in an open plea rests solely with the judge.

The only limitation on an open plea is that the sentence must be a legal, lawful sentence.  For example, it would be an appealable, illegal sentence, if a judge sentenced an individual to six (6) years on a third degree felony, where the maximum sentence is five (5) years in prison.  Otherwise, an individual essentially waives the right to appeal nearly all other facts associated with the case.  This is really the greatest drawback of an open plea, aside from the uncertainty of course.

Many Tampa criminal lawyers will advise you that open pleas are extremely risky, but at times they can be advantageous in unique circumstances.  Most often, Tampa criminal lawyers recommend open pleas, when they feel a prosecutor’s offer on a case is unreasonable and they feel the Judge is more likely to give them a favorable deposition.   Many times, an agreement can be put in place for a “cap”, which is a maximum sentence, which the Court can consider.  For example, on an open plea for a second degree felony with a maximum of fifteen (15) years, the parties can agree to a seven (7) year “cap” for the Court to consider during the open plea.  This “cap” must be agreed upon by the Defendant and the prosecutor’s office.  Many times, an agreement can be reached with regards to a cap or even a range of potential sentences.

Open pleas are also known as “pleading to the Court” or “pleading straight up”.  This is another situation where it is important to have an experienced Tampa criminal lawyer because potential minimum mandatory sentences are still applicable and limitations on the Judge’s discretion.  An experienced Tampa criminal lawyer will also obviously assist to be aware of Judge’s tendencies and preferences when determining sentences during open pleas.

If you have questions about pleas and/or sentencing issues, contact the Tampa criminal lawyers of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation.   Our attorneys have handled thousands of criminal cases throughout the Tampa Bay Area, including handling many open pleas throughout the area.  If you would like to contact one of our Tampa criminal lawyers immediately, please use the “contact us now” tab in the upper right hand corner of our website.  We appreciate you taking the time to check out our Tampa criminal lawyer blog and look forward to working with you.