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- in Criminal Appeals
- by Stephen Gustitis
The Texas criminal defense lawyer’s professional responsibility to each client regards the timely communication of plea bargain offers made by the prosecutor. When defense attorneys fail to communicate plea offers to clients they commit ineffective assistance of counsel, which can often lead to reversal in a criminal case.
To establish an ineffective assistance of counsel claim the client must, first, prove their lawyer’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Second, the client must prove the deficient performance resulted in prejudice. Failure of defense counsel to inform a client of plea offers made by the prosecution is an omission that falls below a standard of professional reasonableness. Furthermore, courts have been unanimous in finding that defense counsel’s failure to inform a client of a plea offer constitutes a violation of the person’s Sixth Amendment constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel.
But the failure to advise the client of the offer is not quite enough to obtain a reversal. The client must also show they were harmed by the lawyer’s unprofessional conduct. In other words, the client must further prove they would have accepted the plea offer had it been communicated. Luckily, the courts have not required defendants prove the trial court would have accepted the plea bargain to establish harm. Only that the defendant missed the opportunity of accepting such a bargain and presenting it to the trial court for consideration.
If you find out your criminal lawyer failed to communicate a plea offer to you, contact new defense counsel immediately. Relief might be available and you need to discuss the matter with an experienced College Station criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.