An Arbuckle Waiver is when a defendant agrees to forgo their right to have the same judge who accepted their plea bargain preside over their sentencing hearing. In most situations, defendants would prefer to have the same judge handle both of these elements of their case.
However, under certain circumstances, a defendant may choose to waive this right and proceed to their sentencing with a different judge than the one who accepted their plea.
A History of the Arbuckle Waiver
Arbuckle rights were established in 1978 in the California Supreme Court case People v. Arbuckle. The court ruled that a defendant has the right to have the same judge preside over both their plea bargain and sentencing hearing. This right applies in cases where the trial court judge retained sentencing discretion according to the plea agreement.
It was recognized that defendants take the judge into consideration when agreeing to a plea bargain. Different judges have different reputations when it comes to the harshness or leniency of the sentences they hand down. Defense lawyers are aware of these reputations and will advise their clients on whether to accept a plea bargain with this in mind.
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Arbuckle Rights Increase the Rate of Guilty Pleas
Since this ruling by the California Supreme Court, the rate of defendants accepting plea bargains and pleading guilty has notably increased. When defendants know they will have a sentencing judge known for handing down lighter sentences, they are far more likely to take a plea deal than they would be if rolling the dice on the identity of their sentencing judge.
Because of this, not only do defendants benefit, but an overburdened court system is also able to get the best of this arrangement by quickly settling cases that would otherwise go to trial.
Judges receive wide discretion when it comes to sentencing. While there are certain parameters they must stick to, they make decisions regarding:
- The length of incarceration
- The amount a defendant must pay in fines
- When a defendant will be eligible for parole
- The length of probation
- Conditions of probation
When the judge wields that much power over the defendant’s future, it is understandable that a defendant would not want to gamble on the leniency of the sentencing judge if they were to plead guilty.
When a Defendant Is Likely to Use an Arbuckle Waiver
There are several situations under which a judge may be switched between a plea bargain being accepted and a sentencing hearing. If a judge is reassigned, on vacation, or retires between the two events, the court will look to replace that judge with another.
If the judge is replaced, then the defendant has a choice. They can either file an Arbuckle Waiver and accept sentencing from the new judge, or they can withdraw their plea.
In some cases, the change in judge might actually be welcome. Maybe the original judge was tough, but the evidence against the defendant was so strong that it still made sense to take the plea deal. The reputation of the new judge could be far more favorable, and filing an Arbuckle Waiver could yield positive results.
However, when switching from a lenient judge to a harsh judge, a defendant may be better off taking their chances at trial.
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Getting Help from a Criminal Defense Lawyer
A defendant is unlikely to know the reputations of a judge on their own. While they may be able to make some guesses based on the judge’s demeanor, there is no guarantee that they would be accurate. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer will give you insight into what you are likely to face when it comes to sentencing, based on the judge who hears your plea.
Your attorney can advise you on when it would be in your best interest to accept a plea bargain and when you would be better served by taking your chances in a courtroom battle. At the Simmrin Law Group, we have plenty of experience negotiating plea deals for our clients.
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Contact Simmrin Law Group for Help with Your Criminal Case
Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation today. A member of our legal team will review your case and inform you of all your options.
We can evaluate any plea offer you receive and advise you about whether you should accept it or not. We will base our recommendation both on the evidence against you and the judge who will preside over your sentencing.