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Plea deal denied by judge in state struggling with drugs

When you're accused of a crime and face a trial, one of the things that may happen is that you may be offered a plea deal. Typically, a plea deal is arranged between a prosecutor and your defense attorney. If the deal is acceptable, you can take it.

The catch is that the court has to agree to the plea deal. Sometimes, judges don't. That's what happened in one case involving a drug dealer. He intended to plead guilty to a single count for distributing heroin in the local community. He faced five other counts, but with the plea, he'd face only one.

The judge received the plea agreement and reviewed it. Shortly after, he refused it. The judge issued a 28-page order explaining his actions. He stated that the state they were in, West Virginia, was deeply affected by the heroin and opioid epidemic. Since the court has to consider the cultural context of criminal conduct, he did not feel the plea was acceptable.

Typically, this doesn't happen. Both the prosecutor and defense attorney were stunned, because judges typically accept plea deals for the sake of saving time, money and moving the case through the court without a trial. It's extremely rare for criminal cases to go to trial, like this one may now.

While this happened in a nearby state, it's possible anywhere. The opioid and heroin epidemic is spreading throughout multiple states, and it's clear that judges may be starting to focus on penalizing those contributing to it harshly. If you face charges for possessing heroin, fentanyl or other restricted drugs, it's vital to defend yourself.

Source: NBC News, "Judge Stuns Court by Rejecting Defendant’s Plea Deal in Drug-Ravaged State," Corky Siemaszko, July 05, 2017

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