Judge Enforces Negotiated Plea

Although judges often decide sentences, they accept negotiated pleas too. In Florida, the prosecutor can agree to a deal with you to resolve your case. The State can make deals the judge can’t offer because it can go below minimum sentences. Then the judge enforces the terms of the agreement like a contract. But what happens if someone claims the judge changes the deal? See how the Third District Court of Appeal responds in Cebez v. Daniel Junior, etc., et al.

Negotiated Plea

Cebez negotiates 5 years of probation followed by 18 months of prison after committing insurance fraud. As a special condition, he has to pay restitution of $174,770 to the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. However, if he violates, he faces 25 years in prison.

Cebez finishes the 5 years without issue, so the judge enters an order ending the supervision. Yet Cebez refuses to report to prison. The prosecution files a motion to enforce the plea agreement. At the hearing, Cebez argues that the court has no jurisdiction over him because his probation ended. The judge grants the State’s motion because the prison sentence was not a condition of probation. Cebez surrenders to prison and files a Writ of Habeas Corpus arguing that the termination of probation ended his sentence. This writ would free him from jail.

Plea Agreement is a Contract

The Third District rules against Cebez and makes him serve his sentence. It treats the negotiated plea agreement as a contract. Although the judge terminated probation, the judge did not sentence Cebez to prison as a condition of probation. According to the agreement, the judge sentences Cebez to probation followed by prison. Once the probation ends, prison begins. The judge has jurisdiction to enforce the contract. Therefore, Cebez must serve the 18 months in prison.

Read the Cebez opinion here!

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