The prosecution can’t use statements made during plea negotiations against you.

Today, the Michigan Court of Appeals released an opinion in People v Mantrease Datrell Smart (COA No. 314980), which held that statements made during plea negotiations are not later admissible against a criminal defendant.

While most attorneys did not seriously doubt that this was the law, the Genessee County Prosecutor appealed after the trial court suppressed statements made by the defendant during plea negotiations in an unrelated case. According to the opinion, “Defendant was charged with one count of felony murder, MCL 750.316; two counts of armed robbery, MCL 750.529; one count of assault with intent to murder, MCL 750.83; and one count of felony firearm, MCL 750.227b, in connection with the robbery and shooting death of Megan Kreuzer on May 31, 2010. Defendant supplied a gun to two other men who planned the robbery. Defendant also witnessed the robbery, during which one of the other men shot and killed Kreuzer.”

The police didn’t know that the Defendant was involved in this case until he was charged in another incident and he told his attorney that he had information regarding the murder. Hoping to work out a favorable deal in the pending case, he spoke with the prosecutor and police. Later in the murder case, the police wanted to use certain statements that he made during these plea negotiations against him.

The Defendant moved to suppress the statements pursuant to MRE 410, which provides:

Rule 410 Inadmissibility of Pleas, Plea Discussions, and Related 
Except as otherwise provided in this rule, evidence of the following is not, in any civil or criminal proceeding, admissible against the defendant who made the plea or was a participant in the plea discussions:
(1) A plea of guilty which was later withdrawn;

(2) A plea of nolo contendere, except that, to the extent that evidence of a guilty plea would be admissible, evidence of a plea of nolo contendere to a criminal charge may be admitted in a civil proceeding to support a defense against a claim asserted by the person who entered the plea;

(3) Any statement made in the course of any proceedings under MCR 6.302 or comparable state or federal procedure regarding either of the foregoing pleas;

(4) Any statement made in the course of plea discussions with an attorney for the prosecuting authority which do not result in a plea of guilty or which result in a plea of guilty later withdrawn.

However, such a statement is admissible (i) in any proceeding wherein another statement made in the course of the same plea or plea discussions has been introduced and the statement ought in fairness be considered contemporaneously with it, or (ii) in a criminal proceeding for perjury or false statement if the statement was made by the defendant under oath, on the record and in the presence of counsel.

Relying on People v Dunn, 446 Mich 409, 415 (1994), the Court of Appeals held that the statements were not admissible in the defendant’s murder trial because the defendant had an actual subjective expectation to negotiate a plea at the time of the discussion and that the expectation was reasonable given the totality of the objective circumstances.

Before you consider making any statements to the police or prosecutor, you should discuss the matter with a qualified criminal defense attorney.

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