The Consequences of Fees for Pleas
Written by Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law on December 7, 2015
A public defender in Florida has criticized the plea deal system used by the prosecutor’s office alleging that plea deals have been utilized to advance the office’s monetary goals. The major issue with this is that such costly plea deals lead to unequal treatment for those who are less financially stable. If a person is afraid of the costs associated with a potential plea deal, then he or she may shy away from hiring a private defender who may prove to be an asset and may be able to get the charges dismissed altogether.
The prosecutor’s office has responded to these claims of high fees by saying that a person can always go to trial. This option involves a person taking the risk of going to trial and possibly facing harsh penalties.
What is a Plea Deal?
When a person is charged with a crime, the prosecutor may offer him or her a plea deal. In return for a defendant pleading guilty to committing a charge, the prosecutor will offer the person something. This may include a reduced sentence. For example, if a person is charged with a crime and face 10 years in prison, then they will only end up serving for five.
Florida laws allow for courts to impose a fee for the prosecution costs. When a person is charged with a misdemeanor they are required to pay at least $50 and when a person is charged with a felony they must pay $100. The money goes into a trust fund that is used to help fund the State Attorney’s Office. A higher fee can be set if the prosecutors can show that there are additional costs associated with the deal. However, State’s Attorney’s Offices are not required to show proof of support for higher fees. Thus public defenders are looking to change these laws and require prosecutors to demonstrate why the additional money was needed.
Costs of Plea Deals
Public defenders in Florida have argued that those arrested are entitled to the same punishment for the same offense as someone who has money. When a person cannot pay, then they are unable to accept the deal, which is not the case for those who have money. Public defenders have suggested that this is a likely violation of the equal protection clause. However, prosecutors have suggested that they take the amount of money that a defendant can pay into consideration when preparing a plea deal to ensure that poorer defendants are treated fairly.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you have been charged with any state or federal criminal offenses in Florida, the first step you should take is to contact a criminal lawyer who can advise you on what needs to be done to prepare a strong defense strategy. Our attorneys at Moses and Rooth have experience with many different types of criminal law. Please do not hesitate to contact our legal team at 407-377-0150 to schedule your free consultation.