How Far Can Colorado Judge Enter into Plea Bargaining Negotiations?
By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer
A Colorado Judge cannot enter into plea negotiations between a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Judges cannot improperly pressure a defendant into a plea bargain by threatening that Defendant with a lengthy sentence if the defendant chooses to go to trial.
A Judge’s role is clear. A Judge must serve as “a neutral and impartial arbiter of justice” and never enter into or become involved in plea negotiations in a criminal case. Any Judge who does become so involved runs the risk of tainting the plea agreement and leading to a withdrawal from that agreement should the Defendant choose to exercise that right.
A Judge’s highest duty is to the fair and impartial administration of justice.
In one case, not long ago, the Judge in a serious Colorado criminal case, said to the Defendant that he was speaking “more as a human being than as a judge,” and that the Judge would be “forced” to impose the maximum sentence if the Defendant were convicted at trial. The Judge also said that he was “not going to be a happy judge” if no plea deal was reached.
The Colorado Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision.
Colorado law provides that judges can be involved in plea negotiations to the extent that a proposed plea can be “run” by the judge to determine if the Judge would accept the plea bargain proposed.
Acting in that capacity, a judge properly advises the parties whether they are wasting their time by attempting to enter into an agreement before placing the agreement on the record in open court. In this case, the judge took his role in this process a little too far..
To understand more about the concept of plea bargaining and how it works – please go to my website and read the following page..