The law surrounding section 11(c)(1)(C) grants the Court and the government, US Attorney’s Office, to separately or jointly accept a plea of guilty on criminal charges, while reducing the potential penalty imposed.
Federal Criminal Sentencing Overview
Federal criminal judges consider the United States Sentencing Commissions Guidelines as applied to the particular offense at hand with the application of the §3553 factors for sentencing. The United States Supreme Court recently affirmed the applicability of the sentencing factors of §3553 for judges to determine federal criminal sentences in 2013, Peugh v. United States, 569 US 530 (2013).
Each individual federal criminal charge carries a statutory sentencing range, which sets the maximum and minimum sentence a federal sentencing judge may order in a federal criminal indictment. Upon a conviction in federal criminal court, either subsequent to jury trial or a change of plea, a sentencing hearing will be set by the Court.
The US Probation office will conduct a Presentence Investigation (PSI) to provide the parties and the Court will a list of relevant factors and application of the Sentencing Guidelines to create a proposed guideline range for punishment at sentencing. At the actual sentencing hearing, the Court will hear objections of the parties to the PSI drafted and presented by the US Probation Officer in the case, as well as Sentencing Memorandums drafted by the parties.
At the actual federal sentencing hearing, the court will hear evidence in aggravation and mitigation that apply to the sentencing factors found at §3553 as well as 11(c)1C agreements or other pela agreements of the parties.
Application of Rule 11(c)(1)(C) at Federal Sentencing
Rule 11(c)(1)(C), if applicable, limits the sentencing judge’s discretion at sentencing, by “[allowing] the defendant and the prosecutor to agree that a specific sentence is appropriate” and presentment of the joint proposal of the defendant and federal prosecutor.
The Second Circuit stated the following artfully in United States v. Quinones, 511 F.3d 289, 323 (2nd Cir. 2007), that the purpose of Rule 11(c)(1)(C) is to allow the parties, the federal prosecutor and the federal criminal defendant to “allocate risk [and to] obtain benefits” additionally, it “achieve[s] finality and saves resources.” However, the federal sentencing court retains the authority and province to impose an appropriate sentence in every federal criminal case.
Although the parties in a federal criminal case may reach an agreement for a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, the sentencing judge retains discretion to accept or reject any Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement. The parties may fashion an agreement for an appropriate sentencing range; however, the Court retains the obligation to exercise discretion in determining an appropriate federal criminal sentence. In fact, the Court is prohibited from accepting a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement prior to consideration of the applicable sentencing range and the recommended sentence.
Federal sentencing judges retain the discretion whether to accept a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement or to reject it; however, once the court accepts a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, the Court is bound to set sentencing in a federal criminal case pursuant to the agreement, which is typically a range of punishment.
However like many rules, there are rare exceptions to the enforcement of a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement. The court is not bound by a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, if the sentencing guidelines for the case at bar changes to a lower sentence or to rectify a Constitutional violation in the case. Additionally, if the sentencing court believes circumstances are so compelling and overwhelming that the Court must retain authority for additional consideration.
Court’s Sentencing Discretion and Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreements
The Court has absolute discetion to accept or reject a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, with consideration of the value of finality with the efficiency of the rule. The Court may offer an acceptable alternative for consideration by the parties and the government has the authority to grant defendant the latitude to seek a downward departure at sentencing, and to suggest a reduction in sentence.
Conclusion on Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreements
In some federal criminal cases, it is in the defendant’s best interest to agree to a Change of Plea to a Guilty plea, upon the benefit of limiting the number of charges the defendant will plea to in the indictment and limits the upper and lower range of punishment at sentencing. In conclusion, the sentencing range of federal criminal charges is sometimes very wide, which is why the sentencing guidelines are used to determine the appropriate sentencing range for the Court to consider.
For example, in a Distribution of Child Pornogrphy case, the punishment range is five years to twenty years, which is a very wide range of potential punishment. However, with a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, the punishment range can be limited to a very specific range to protect the federal criminal defendant from twenty years in federal prison and benefit the Court and government by saving the resources associated with federal criminal trials.
Contact – Cannon & Associates: Federal Defense Advocates
Experience matters when you are facing a federal indictment by a grand jury or federal criminal charges. It is important to know the federal criminal defense lawyer you hire is dedicated to your cause and versed in all aspects of federal criminal law and federal sentencing proceedings. Cannon & Associates is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy and will fight for your rights.