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State v. Wheeler

    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."

    Facts. None.

    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. 


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