In the spring of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decided two cases that threw the phenomena of plea bargaining into high relief. In Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye, the Court was asked to decide whether a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel had been violated when the defendant received deficient advice from his lawyer during plea bargaining and as a result either proceeded to trial and was convicted, or was forced to enter a later guilty plea on worse terms, in either event causing him to receive a more punitive sentence than he would have had he accepted the plea offer. In answering this question in the affirmative, the Court clarified two important points. First, plea bargaining represents a "critical stage" of a prosecution in which defendants are fully entitled to effective legal representation. Second, provision of a fair process-either an error-free trial or entry of a voluntary guilty plea-does not wipe the constitutional slate clean. Prejudice, in other words, includes the loss of a tangible chance to minimize punishment, not merely the entry of an unreliable conviction.
Russell D. Covey,
Plea-Bargaining Law after Lafler and Frye,
Duq. L. Rev.
Available at: https://dsc.duq.edu/dlr/vol51/iss3/6