Lafler-Frye hearings stem from the Supreme Court’s rulings in Lafler vs. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye. Lafler-Frye hearings allow the prosecutor to put their plea recommendation on the official court record. Keep reading to learn more about Lafler-Frye hearings and the cases that led to their creation.
WHAT IS A LAFLER-FRYE HEARING?
Lafler-Frye hearings were created to prevent Lafler claims. Lafler claims occur post-conviction, or after a person has pled guilty or been found guilty by a court of law. In a Lafler claim, the convicted person argues that their attorney was deficient during the plea bargaining process.
What Happened in Lafler v. Cooper?
In Lafler, Anthony Cooper was charged with assault with intent to murder, among other offenses. The prosecution offered to dismiss some of the charges and recommended a 51-to-85-month sentence for the remaining charges in exchange for Cooper’s guilty plea. Cooper communicated with the court his guilt and expressed his willingness to accept the plea offer. However, Cooper rejected the offer based on advice from his counsel that the prosecution would not be able to prove intent to murder at trial. Cooper was convicted on all counts at trial and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 185 to 360 months imprisonment, a harsher sentence than the plea offer. Lafler vs. Cooper, 123 S. Ct. 1376, 1383 (2012).
The Supreme Court ruled Cooper’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel extended to the plea-bargaining process. Specifically, during the plea-bargaining process, defendants are entitled to the effective assistance of competent counsel. The Court stated that if a defendant is sentenced and convicted and would have accepted the less severe pre-trial plea offer absent the assistance of ineffective counsel, the prosecution should reoffer the plea. The judge also has the discretion to resentence the defendant if the defendant accepts the reoffered plea. Id. at 1391.
What Changed Because of Lafler v. Cooper?
Due to Lafler, defendants can bring Lafler claims against their attorney in post-conviction proceedings if they reject a pre-trial plea offer based on the attorney’s advice and then receive a severe outcome at sentencing. The defendant must prove that there is a reasonable probability that they would have accepted the plea offer had they had the effective assistance of competent counsel. Even if the trial is free from flaws, the defendant can still bring a Lafler claim if they received a harsher outcome due to ineffective assistance of counsel.
If the defendant succeeds in the Lafler claim, they can plead guilty to the plea offer made initially. The trial court can then choose to vacate the convictions and resentence based on the reoffered plea agreement, vacate only some of the convictions and resentence, or leave the convictions and sentence from trial the same. Id. at 1391.
What Happened in Missouri v. Frye?
In Frye, Galin Frye was charged with driving with a revoked license. Frye was charged with a felony carrying a maximum 4-year prison sentence because he had been charged three times before for the same crime. The prosecutor sent a plea offer to Frye’s counsel offering to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor and to recommend a 90-day sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. Frye’s counsel did not inform Frye of the plea offer, and the offer expired. Missouri v. Frye, 132 S.Ct. 1399, 1401 (2012).
Frye ultimately pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 3-years of imprisonment. Frye sought post-conviction relief and claimed that his counsel’s failure to inform him of the plea offer constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. Frye also claimed that he would have accepted the less severe plea of a misdemeanor with a 90-day sentence had he been informed of the offer. Frye appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Id.
The Court ruled that Frye’s counsel’s failure to inform Frye of the plea offer constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court also ruled that defense counsel must communicate formal offers to a defendant in a timely manner. Id. at 1402.
What Changed Because of Missouri v. Frye?
Because of Frye, the defense counsel has a duty to communicate formal plea offers made by the prosecution to the defendant in a timely manner. However, the defendant must prove there was a reasonable probability that they would have accepted the expired plea offer, that the prosecution would not have withdrawn the offer, and that the trial court would have accepted the plea offer. Id. at 1409.
What happens at a Lafler-Frye hearing?
If you are scheduled for a Lalfer-Frye hearing in Georgia, the prosecution will offer you a formal plea on the official court record. During the hearing, you will have the opportunity to accept or reject the plea offer. The hearing will not be like a trial. During a trial, there are usually 12 jurors present, the State presents evidence, the defense presents evidence, and at the end, there is a jury verdict. Georgia Lafler-Frye hearings are less formal and shorter than trials, and a jury will not be present.
What’s the point of a Lafler-Frye Hearing? Do I have to attend?
Lafler-Frye hearings can work to the defendant’s benefit because the hearing allows the defendant to hear the plea offer in full and make an informed decision when choosing to accept or reject a plea offer. You must attend the hearing if you are scheduled for a Lafler-Frye hearing.
Lafler-Frye hearings occur most frequently in serious felony cases. However, they are relatively uncommon and will not happen in every case, even with serious felonies.
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