NY Judge’s Threat of Jail Invalidates “Voluntary” Guilty Plea

In a legal decision unanimously rendered by the 2nd Department and to be published this Friday, appellate justices found that a NY Supreme Court judge’s threat of increased bail prior to a plea caused that plea to be entered involuntarily.

Dr. Terry Grant, a Long Island dentist, was charged with forty separate counts relating to filing $9,000 worth of fraudulent insurance claims. While the case was pending the court became agitated and impatient due to the delays in the case and because the defendant failed to follow the terms of his probation.

According to the New York Law Journal, Judge Peck threatened the defendant and stated “‘if he [wants] the plea deal, I will continue him the the bail status that he’ is in. If he doesn’t take the plea deal today, I am going to remand him until Monday. Now do you want the plea deal?'”

In short, Judge Peck threatened to hold Dr. Grant without bail over the weekend if he did not accept the plea. The defendant ultimately accepted the plea deal and although Judge Peck questioned the defendant whether the plea was voluntary, the 2nd Department threw out the plea. Specifically, the Appellate Division 2nd Department found that “[b]ecause an immediate change in the defendant’s bail status is not an appropriate consideration in plea negotiations, when the court threatens to increase bail or remand the defendant unless a guilty plea is entered, any resulting plea cannot be deemed voluntary because the defendant’s decision to plead guilty would no longer represent a free choice among legitimate alternatives.”

Whatever you or your loved one is confronted with, no judge or prosecutor is permitted to threaten you to take a plea. That ultimate choice is yours to make. Moreover, bail, a tool used by the court to guarantee your presence on a future date, should not be a means to coerce a plea from any defendant. At Crotty Saland PC, we know how overwhelming the courtroom and criminal charges may be. That is why will work hand in hand with you to pursue the legal angles to make sure your rights and liberty are protected.

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