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Can a lawyer accept a plea deal on your behalf?

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), legal commentators say that 95 percent of judicial cases are settled even before they go to trial. Many people in Connecticut will actually settle their cases through a plea agreement worked out with the assistance of their attorney. However, it is vital for anyone who is going through a court proceeding to understand that acceping a plea deal or a settlement is a choice for them to make alone. 

The ABA explains that the wishes of the client should always be honored by the client’s legal representation. In the event a prosecutor in a criminal case or an opposing party in a civil case puts a settlement offer on the table, it is the duty of the client's attorney to convey all the information to the client. This makes sure that the client can make an informed decision. Once the client has received and understood the offer, the client may accept or reject it.

In some cases an attorney may not agree with a proposed settlement. For example, a client’s counsel may believe a plea deal is based on poor information. In a civil case, legal counsel might determine that a proposed settlement is too small for what the client could or should receive. However, in any of these instances an attorney can only counsel the client on what he or she should do, and not reject an offer out of hand on the client’s behalf.

However, the ABA describes a scenario whereby an attorney may reject a deal on a client’s behalf. A client may specifically describe certain settlement terms that the client will absolutely not accept if offered. The attorney is then not obligated to inform the client that these terms have been offered by the opposing party. A client may also decide to accept specific terms of an agreement without requiring a discussion of an offer beforehand. In such a case, an attorney may accept the terms if the client dictates it so. In both of these cases, the client’s wishes are still paramount, and the attorney is merely acting on them.

This article, while educating the reader on plea bargains, is not to be understood as legal advice.

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