In many criminal cases, it makes sense for the defendant to enter into a plea agreement in exchange for a reduced sentence or lesser charges. Any plea agreement must be entered into knowingly and voluntarily, and if it is not, a defendant may have grounds to file an appeal. The basis for challenging a plea agreement was the topic of a recent Michigan opinion that was issued in a case in which the defendant pleaded guilty to theft and fraud. If you are accused of fraud or any other crime, it is smart to speak to an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.
The Defendant’s Agreement
It is reported that the defendant was charged with theft of government funds, student loan fraud, and numerous other crimes. She entered a guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement she made with the prosecution. She then appealed the judgment in her case, averring that she had a right to appeal the timing of her sentence and the manner in which it was to be served. The government moved to dismiss her appeal, arguing that she expressly waived her right to file an appeal. After reviewing the agreement, the court ruled in favor of the government and dismissed her appeal.
Assessing the Validity of Plea Waivers Under Michigan Law
The court explained that criminal defendants might waive their right to an appeal as part of their plea agreements, but any such waiver must be voluntary and knowing. In the subject case, the defendant did not argue that her waiver was not voluntary or knowing but instead asserted that the waiver did not include challenges to the timing of her sentence or the manner in which it was to be served.
The court noted that the waiver in question stated that the defendant waived the right to appeal the sentence imposed unless it exceeded the statutory maximum. The court explained that while the defendant correctly stated that ambiguities in plea waiver agreements are construed against the government, the subject waiver was not vague or unclear. In other words, her sentence did not exceed the statutory maximum, and therefore, her appeal was barred, and any challenge to the timing or manner of the sentence was a challenge to the sentence itself.
The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning that case law suggested her appeal was permissible, noting that none of the cases she cited dealt with the issue at hand. Thus, it denied her appeal.
Meet with an Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer
People accused of fraud have numerous options for how to handle their charges, and in some instances, it is prudent to enter into a plea agreement. If you are accused of fraud, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney as soon as possible. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Bernstein through the online form or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.