If you face federal white-collar crime charges in California, you and your attorney may be able to negotiate a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor. Per Forbes, approximately 90 percent of federal defendants enter into plea agreements instead of placing their fates in the hands of a jury.

While a plea agreement can prove advantageous to you, it also carries negatives including the following:

  • You forego your constitutional right to a trial by jury.
  • You will have to declare your guilt in open court.
  • You usually forego your right to appeal
  • You usually cannot later rescind your plea agreement if you change your mind about it.

Supreme Court opinion

Although most plea agreements present the above-listed negatives, the U.S. Supreme Court recently gave white-collar defendants new hope with regard to their appellate rights. The case was Class v. United States, and the Justices declared that in some circumstances, you can appeal your conviction and attack the plea agreement you signed.

In this case, Class pleaded guilty via a plea bargain to carrying a gun in his Jeep at the time he parked it in a no firearm zone in Washington, D.C. He later appealed his conviction on the following grounds:

  • That he was unaware of the Washington, D.C. statute prohibiting the carrying of a firearm
  • That the statute violated his Second Amendment rights
  • That the sign in the Washington, D.C. parking lot violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process
  • That he had a valid North Carolina gun licence and that, per North Carolina law, he dutifully kept his gun locked in the Jeep’s safe.
  • That the plea agreement he signed did not expressly waive his appellate rights

When Class attempted to appeal, the appellate court denied his appeal, stating that his plea agreement implicitly waived his appellate rights. He appealed further to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Class never denied that he had a gun in his Jeep or that the statute in question prohibited his having one there while parked in the no firearm zone. Instead, he based his appeal on the denial of his Second Amendment right to bear arms and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. SCOTUS agreed with him and overruled the appellate court’s decision, stating that “Class did not relinquish his right to appeal the District Court’s constitutional determinations simply by pleading guilty.”

While this was a recent SCOTUS case, the full ramifications of which have yet to be determined, it does give federal white-collar crime defendants like you new hope that you may be able to appeal your conviction if you do so on constitutional grounds.

This is educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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