APPEAL WAIVERS IN FEDERAL CRIMINAL CASES EXAMINED BY SUPREME COURT

Federal criminal casesSupreme Court Hears Argument on Appeal Waivers in Federal Criminal Cases

The United States Supreme Court heard oral argument last week in a case concerning appeal waivers in Federal criminal cases.  The appeal involves a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel based on an attorney failing to file an appeal when requested to do so by their client where the client had entered into a plea agreement which specifically included a waiver of his appeal rights.
The issue in Garza v. Idaho, Supreme Court No. 17-1026, is whether a presumption of prejudice arises when counsel takes actions that deprive a defendant of an appeal to which he had a right, under circumstances where the decision of counsel not to appeal is driven by the fact that the defendant’s plea agreement included an appeal waiver.
A criminal defendants in Federal criminal cases are permitted to waive their right to appeal as part of a plea agreement, and the waiver is generally held to be valid as long as it is knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently done.  Such waivers are common in Federal criminal cases where the U. S. Attorney’s Office routinely seeks to include the waiver language in the plea agreement.  this is sometimes the result of an attitude by the prosecution that their plea offers a take it or leave it proposition. In our experience, it is possible to negotiate with prosecutors to mold a plea agreement which is beneficial to defendant, and which takes pains to achieve the best possible result for our client. Certainly, enter into a plea agreement is not always the best course of action. Many cases are triable, and winnable. However, when the circumstances dictate that a plea agreement is the most prudent course of action, the plea agreement should strive to  place a client in the best possible position.
Hopefully, the United States Spring Court will hear the case and determine once and for all that such waivers should not be allowed in Federal criminal cases,  and that a criminal defendant has the right to appeal this case regardless of whether he is found guilty based upon a jury verdict or plea agreement. We will post a follow-up once the case is decided and the decision announced.
The U. S. Supreme Court Page for the case can be found HERE
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