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Defendant Cannot Argue for a Less Severe Sentence than Provided for in His Plea Agreement

In State v. Careau, 2016 VT 18 (February 12, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court struck Probation Condition 43, which allows the probation officer unbridled authority over where Defendant lives and works and refused to allow a defendant to argue for a lesser sentence than he agreed to in his plea agreement.

Issue: Defendant challenged the imposition of Condition 43, where the trial court failed to make any findings regarding its necessity, and the State stipulated to remand on this issue. He also challenged the trial court refusal to allow him to argue under V.R.C.P. Rules 11 and 32 for a lesser sentence than that provided in his plea agreement.

Holding: The Court held the trial court’s imposition of Condition 43, without any findings explaining its necessity, was plain error, and so reversed and remanded on this issue. The Court held that a plea agreement was a contract and both the State and the Defendant were bound by its terms, including the sentence, if the sentence was one of the terms of the agreement. Accordingly, the Court held that, if the Defendant were allowed to seek a lower sentence, he would be in violation of his duties in the agreement. It held that V.R.C.P. Rule 11 provided authorization for the trial court, not the parties, to impose a lesser sentence, and that right to allocution under V.R.C.P. Rule 32 could not be used to argue for a lesser sentence than the plea agreement.

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