Supreme Court Ruling: Can Reneging on a Plea Deal Affect Your Sentence?


The Ohio Supreme Court ruled today that a trial court does not have authority to set aside a conviction and sentence if the defendant in the case failed to follow through with the terms of their plea deal. Justice William O'Neill commented on the court's decision, saying that if a trial court becomes concerned that the defendant may not follow through with a plea deal, the trial court should delay sentencing until after the defendant has performed the terms of the deal.

The ruling will send a case back to trial court for resentencing. The trial involved a Cincinnati man who was facing several serious criminal charges, including murder. This defendant entered into a plea deal with the court – he would testify against his father in another murder case in exchange for reduced and dismissed charges. Although the defendant had not yet testified against his father, the trial court sentenced him to the reduced charges on the presumption that he would.

The defendant did not cooperate with the terms of his plea deal when it came time to testify against his father, so the state of Ohio moved to vacate his sentence. The trial court complied by withdrawing the original bargain made with the defendant and resentenced him to a more stringent prison term.

This case made its way to Ohio's high court after the defendant appealed his resentencing and an appeals court reversed the decision. The state, unsatisfied with the reversal, appealed to the Supreme Court.

Justice O'Neill admitted that revisiting a sentence if the defendant does not carry out their side of a plea deal seems like the fairest option, statute does not support this. O'Neill stated that the best way to mitigate this potential problem is to make sentencing contingent on the defendant's performance of "upholding their end of the bargain."

To learn more about this Ohio Supreme Court decision and its implications, visit Court News Ohio.