What is an Open Plea? Why Would You Choose One?
Let’s say you get charged with a serious crime. For example, maybe it’s First Degree Murder. If convicted, you could receive life in prison.
The prosecution decides it’s willing to offer you a plea bargain of 50 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. You don’t want to experience either of those consequences. You believe that based on the evidence you have seen, and advice from your criminal defense lawyer, that you do not want to go to trial either, but instead want to try for a reduced sentence.
So, in hopes for a reduced sentence, you can enter an “open” plea to the court.
What Does It Mean to Plead “Open?”
“Open” is a confusing term. Think of it as a plea where the full range of punishment is “open” for the judge to consider for punishment.
The idea is that you plead guilty to your crime without any agreement from the prosecutor on what the punishment will be. Then, both the prosecutor and your defense attorney present their arguments to the judge, hoping the judge makes a decision that favors them.
During the plea negotiations, you got an offer of 50 years from the prosecuting attorney. If you and your defense attorney feel that offer is unreasonable, then in reality, you’re rejecting the prosecuting attorney’s offer.
Should You Make an “Open” Plea?
You should consider pleading “open” only under the advice of your lawyer. And you should have a good criminal defense lawyer at that.
Because, the judge can still think you deserve the worst sentence possible. And, they can give it to you anyway, even if you do make an open plea.
To successfully plead “open,” these circumstances are beneficial:
• Factually weak case prosecuted by the state
• Mitigating circumstances and sympathetic defendant
• Fair-minded judge
• Unreasonable offer by the prosecutor
Two things you have working in your favor when you plead “open” are:
1. You accept responsibility for your actions
2. You avoid trial
The judge likes both. So just by pleading open, you build favor with the court. However, pleading “open” does not guarantee you a lesser sentence than originally offered.
That’s why it makes sense to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. They should know the personalities of the judge and prosecutor, or how to size them up so they know how you should approach your case to get the best outcome possible.
That could involve entering an “open” plea. Or, it could involve pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest. That decision is yours after consulting with your lawyer. Since it’s your future, you want to make sure you have the best criminal defense lawyer possible on your side.