In the field of criminal defense, there are many hard-fought battles that can end in a dismissal or an advantageous plea bargain for the defendant if the attorney is at the top of their game. Regardless of the work of the attorney, some accountability falls upon the defendant themselves and this is what we often call “The Danger Zone.” The “Danger Zone” is the time period between the plea and the sentence and the behavior of the defendant during that time period can be the difference between incarceration and freedom. To discuss the issue in greater detail, we spoke to leaders in the criminal defense sector to learn more about the issue.
Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has developed the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the “Danger Zone”, Grabel stated, “Michigan Court Rule (MCR) 6.310 (B)(3) is very clear that if the defendant commits misconduct between the plea and sentencing the deal made could fall apart. Surprisingly, and what many lawyers do not even realize is that MCR 6.310 (B)(3) can even trump a Killebrew or a Cobbs Agreement so the behavior of the defendant is crucial to their own survival in the criminal justice system.”
The court rule states, “Except as allowed by the trial court for good cause, a defendant is not entitled to withdraw a plea under subsection (2)(a) or (2)(b) if the defendant commits misconduct after the plea is accepted but before sentencing. For purposes of this rule, misconduct is defined to include, but is not limited to: absconding or failing to appear for sentencing, violating terms of conditions on bond or the terms of any sentencing or plea agreement, or otherwise failing to comply with an order of the court pending sentencing.”
Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a seasoned criminal defense attorney. McManus added insight to the topic and when he stated, “What the criminal defense lawyer often forgets about is that their client is on probation before they are on probation. A slip of the tongue can destroy a deal. This is often understood when one goes to their probation interview but forgotten about when their live their day-to-day lives. MCR 6.310 (B) (3) is the biggest fear when someone is living in the danger zone.”
Jeremy Tatum is an attorney in Saginaw, Michigan and has quickly built a name for himself in the criminal defense world. When asked about MCR 6.310 (B)(3), Tatum was quoted as saying, “Far too often the defendant thinks the game is over once the plea is accepted. Even more frequently we find that the attorney does not understand the difference between a “Plea Agreement” and a “Sentencing Agreement” but even those that do understand the distinction seem to forget that 6.310 (B) (3) can be just as dangerous of a pitfall to the criminal defendant as a bad probation interview. The defendant has to help themselves after the attorney has worked out a deal to protect their freedom.”
Grabel added, “The Danger Zone” is treacherous because once the defendant sees light at the end of the tunnel, they often forget that there is still a journey ahead. The experienced criminal law attorney needs to prepare their client how to behave both inside and outside of the courtroom. MCR 6.310 (B) (3) is always looming in the dark waiting to destroy a good deal. The best defense is to not give the trier of fact an opportunity to take one’s freedom away.”
While MCR 6.310 (B) (3) is not a rule that many in the criminal sector are aware of, it presents a situation that could destroy dreams. It is our obligation to protect our clients not only against the prosecution but also against themselves.
William Amadeo is a partner at Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. In addition to his legal duties, Amadeo is a staff writer for “The Chronicle News” and owns and operates BAT Tutoring in Lansing, Michigan. He can be reached at Williamamadeo@Grabellaw.com.