Sound Off

Sound Off: Sentencing

In a recent criminal case I’ve been following in the LJWorld, a defendant pleaded guilty as part of an agreement with the prosecution, and a sentence was mentioned. However, when the defendant was later sentenced, it was for longer than the previous article stated. Why?

In plea agreements, the prosecution and defense recommend a sentence to the judge. Often, the judge will impose the recommended sentence, but they are not obligated to do that. Judges are free to impose any sentence that falls within the Kansas sentencing guidelines for the crime, based on the severity and someone’s criminal history.


mdlund0 5 years, 3 months ago

So, what you're saying is: don't bother taking a plea deal because it isn't worth the paper that it's written on. Noted.

Phoghorn 5 years, 3 months ago

But the judge apparently handed down a stronger sentence. This would (presumably) be what the prosecution was recommending.

mdlund0 5 years, 3 months ago

No, by exceeding the sentence recommended in the plea agreement, the judge is undercutting the credibility of the prosecutor who made a pledge to the defendant in exchange for said defendant's plea. People (like me, though I'm not a criminal and have no reason to be in a situation like this) who know about this will be more reluctant to accept plea deals and will be more willing to go to trial if they don't (can't) trust that the plea deal will be fully executed because of the whimsy of a loose cannon judge. The end result will be that the court system will be backed up further trying to sort out situations that could have been resolved via plea agreements. Meanwhile, people who have committed crimes may either go free or end up with disproportionate sentences depending on how trials go or whether cases are dropped. The "plea deal" system actually works quite well and judges do the entire system a disservice by circumventing the system.

Phoghorn 5 years, 3 months ago

My objection was to HarmonKillabrew painting our DA as weak. In a lot of hist posts he argues that our DA can not get a judge to hand down a heavy sentence. This just seems like the wrong thread for that argument.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

This is a bizarre feature of our system.

Seems to me that if both the prosecution and defense agree to a guilty plea in exchange for sentencing reductions, then that agreement should be honored, otherwise what's the point?

I certainly hope that defendants are informed that their plea agreements aren't binding, and that judges can easily impose harsher sentences, before they enter into them.

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

It should never happen, but does it happen much around here?

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