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The Florida Bar

Violation of Plea Deals Question

Criminal Lawyers Obligation to Caution Client


Can a defendant be found to have violated the terms of his plea agreement and subject to a greater sentence if he contacted the very co-defendant that he agreed to testify against in exchange for leniency?


Undoubtedly, the plea agreement of which you speak requires the defendant to testify truthfully against the co-defendant at a future trial. This requires that his testimony on that day be consistent with previous statements given to law enforcement, the prosecutor, and/or the court. Consequently, the only way that he could have been found to have violated the terms of his plea agreement would be if that agreement prohibited him from communicating with the very person that he is to testify against. Plea agreements are governed by contract law. Clear and unambiguous language of that contract is controlling. Take a look at Obara, 958 So. 2d. If communications with the co-defendant were not prohibited, then no violation of the contract has occurred. You may want to pull State v. Acosta, 506 So. 2d 387, which points out the prosecutors are to be very cautious in protecting their interests when negotiating plea deals. Also see McCoy v. State, 599 So. 2d 645.

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