Brief Fact Summary. None.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A prosecutor's offer is considered an unilateral contract, and as such "absent some detrimental reliance by the defendant, the State may withdraw from any plea agreement prior to the actual entry of a guilty plea."
The State may withdraw from a plea bargain agreement at any time prior to, but not after, the actual entry of the guilty plea by the defendant or other action by him constituting detrimental reliance upon the agreement.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Can a prosecutor legally rescind an offer to a defendant before a defendant has an opportunity to accept it?
Held. Yes. The court observed "[t]he weight of authority is that, absent some detrimental reliance by the defendant, the State may withdraw from any plea agreement prior to the actual entry of a guilty plea." Courts have arrived at this conclusion by characterizing a prosecutor's offer as a unilateral contract. As such, "only the defendant's plea, or some other detrimental reliance upon the arrangement, constitutes an acceptance of the agreement; and consequently the bargain can be revoked if neither has occurred." Furthermore, courts have found "that enforcing bargains made before the plea would inhibit the prosecutor's use of plea bargaining; and that the defendant, because she or he can still get a jury trial, has an adequate remedy for the State's revocation."
Discussion. This case offers a simple example of how unilateral contracts are construed by courts.