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Read before you plead

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Federal felony guilty plea agreements ordinarily are multi-page documents with much information and many concepts to absorb. They must be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb by the criminal defense lawyer, and fully read and explained to the defendant before making counter-proposals based on the draft plea agreement and certainly before signing the agreement. As much as such a review may be a lengthy and painstaking process, that is nothing compared to the frequently years-long federal prison terms and painstaking time spent in prison.

Ours is a society of sign first and read later, or never. People go to home purchase closings and sign a dizzying array of critical lengthy legalese-laden documents that they have barely or will never read. A huge number of raised hands among my fellow property law class students confirmed they never read their apartment leases before signing them. People repeatedly electronically sign lengthy computer software contracts and website entry portals without reading the terms and conditions of the signed agreement. Courtroom personnel shove binding documents in front of defendants to sign, with many of these personnel going into impatience and even huffs when the defendant dares to wish to read the documents before signing them.

How many people end up reading the contracts that they resolve ultimately to read? When was the last time you read your rental car agreement after you drove off of the rental car lot?

Joseph Laslie signed a federal plea agreement, but then appealed on a sentencing enhancement that was stipulated in his written plea agreement. Whether or not he completely read his plea agreement before signing it, he got nowhere on his appeal, with the appellate court confirming.

Joseph Laslie pled guilty to crossing state lines to have sex with a minor. He appeals his sentence, arguing that the district court erred when it applied a sentencing enhancement based on his use of a computer to facilitate his crime. We hold that Laslie waived this challenge. He stipulated to the enhancement in his plea agreement and raised no objection to its inclusion in the district court’s calculation of his sentence. Therefore, we affirm the sentence imposed by the district court.

U.S. v. Laslie, ___ F.3d ___ (D.C. Cir., May 17, 2013).

Further, Laslie points out:

Unlike in [U.S. v.] Accardi, [669 F.3d 340 (D.C. Cir. 2012)], the record before us is unequivocal. Beginning with his plea agreement, Laslie repeatedly affirmed that his Guidelines range should be calculated with a two-level enhancement to his offense level under U.S.S.G. § 2A3.1(b)(6)(B). He therefore waived his challenge to the enhancement.