Stinson Pleas

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stinson plea

Entering a Stinson plea is effectively a high stakes gamble.  When entering a Stinson plea, a Defendant admits guilt to actually secure a better outcome of the case. 

Stinson pleas come about when a prosecutor offers a Defendant into a diversion program to get their case dismissed, on the condition that the Defendant will accept a conviction if they violate any of the terms of their diversion.  This makes the admission of guilt temporary if the Defendant successfully completes the program, and fatal if they fail to meet the obligations of the diversion program.

A Stinson plea creates an all-or-nothing effect on your case: if you complete the diversion program then your case will be dismissed, but if you step out of line there is very little a Defense Attorney can do to help you.  Therefore, it is important to take the diversion program seriously and thoroughly understand the requirements before accepting this type of plea.

Case Law

The ability to use this type of plea was enshrined in State v. Stinson.  In this case, the Defendant was convicted for drug related offenses and was allowed into a diversion program called “drug court”, which requires the Defendant to temporarily plead guilty, but upon successful completion of the program without infractions the case will be dismissed.  The Defendant accepted the offer and plead guilty to the charges, and promised to attend rehab treatment sessions among other criteria.

Stinson missed some of his sessions, and therefore violated the agreement.  Once Stinson realized that he was not going to be able to have his case dismissed through drug court, he tried to withdraw his guilty plea so that he could take the case to trial instead.

The Court said that withdrawing a guilty plea is not a right, but at the discretion of the judge as justice requires.  Because Stinson had signed a contract with the drug court, the Court found that the judge rightfully denied his request to withdraw his guilty plea and proceed to trial.

This case is important because it solidifies the ability to use a Stinson plea as a “temporary” guilty plea, but also highlights the risk with entering into a Stinson plea.


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