The vast majority of cases in our state criminal justice system are resolved not by proceeding to trial but through negotiated plea agreements. These are contracts between the government and the accused in which both sides are negotiating for some form of benefit in the ultimate resolution. In this article, Justice Donnelly exposes what he sees as a flaw in the system in the manner in which trial court judges oversee this process of negotiation. In a significant number of cases, the state induces defendants to enter into a guilty plea with no certain sentence, amounting to an illusory agreement that confers little if any benefit on the accused. Because the sentencing court is not bound by the parties’ agreement, this flawed process exposes the accused to sentencing by ambush.

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