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Make Sure You Know ALL of the Terms of Your Plea Agreement

Here's an intesting issue regarding plea agreements; it's always best to be as thorough as possible when explaining a plea agreement to the judge.

Issues: Motion to enforce defendant's plea agreement; Factual findings.

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: People v. Cotton

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Murray, Saad, and Hoekstra

Holding that the evidentiary record was insufficient to allow meaningful review of defendant's claim, the court vacated the trial court's order denying his motion to enforce his plea agreement and remanded. The parties did not enter into a written plea agreement and specifics of the discussions were not placed on the record. Many of them were, however, conducted before the trial court in chambers, off the record. When defendant sought to enforce the agreement, the trial court declined the request because there was no written agreement and it did not have a "clear recollection of the specific terms." At issue on appeal was whether defendant and the prosecution entered into a plea agreement and whether, given his reliance on that agreement, he was entitled to specific performance of its terms. The central question was whether an enforceable plea agreement existed. Given the absence of specific findings by the trial court and the lack of information in the lower court record as to the details of the negotiations between the parties, the court was unable to judge on this record whether a plea agreement was reached and, if so, what it entailed. In light of the offer of proof made by defendant in the form of the affidavits provided to the trial court by his attorneys, the court was also persuaded that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on this issue. The court remanded with instructions that the trial court conduct an evidentiary hearing involving testimony from those present for the plea discussions to ascertain as a factual matter the substance of the discussions and whether, viewed objectively, the parties' words and conduct manifested an intent to be bound.

Young Lawyer in Law Library


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