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Plea Bargains and 402 Conferences In Illinois

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A 402 conference is a plea bargaining meeting that includes the judge. The point of plea negotiations is to reduce the charges against you and seek a lighter penalty. You get this benefit by agreeing to plead guilty in return and waiving your right to trial. Under no circumstances do you have to accept a deal that is offered to you. You always have the right to plead not guilty.

The judge isn’t required to participate in a plea discussion, but Illinois Supreme Court rule 402(d) says that if the parties agree, a judge can be involved. Everyone must agree to a 402 conference – the prosecutor, the defendant, the defense attorney and the judge. A request for a 402 conference can be denied by the judge; it’s at their discretion.

At the conference, the judge will hear all the details of your charges. The judge also may hear about any circumstances that would mitigate or aggravate a potential sentence, such as criminal history or lack thereof. They then will hear what sentence is being proposed.

The difference between a plea bargain discussion between attorneys and one that involves the judge is that at a 402 conference the judge will tell you what they will or will not approve in terms of sentencing. If an agreement is reached at the 402 conference, then it’s already been approved by the judge.

In a plea negotiation that is not a 402 conference, there is no guarantee that the agreement you reach with the prosecutor will be approved by the judge. It’s likely to be approved, but the judge has the authority to reject it when you appear in court.

There are couple reasons to have a 402 conference. One reason is to come away with a known outcome. Another reason, for attorneys, is to gauge what a judge would do in a particular case. By having a 402 conference, they can learn what penalty the judge would impose. The judge is not allowed to initiate plea discussions, according to rule 402.

If you need a criminal defense attorney, or have questions about how to request a 402 conference in your case, feel free to contact us. Your call is confidential and our goal is to be straightforward and honest in answering your questions. We can recommend a criminal defense attorney in any county in Illinois. You can reach us at (312) 346-5320 or (800) 517-1614. Or fill out our online form. Our service is always free.