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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

Increasingly, defendants enter into proposed plea agreements that require pre-plea cooperation with the authorities. In such a situation, the defendant acts in reliance on the proposed plea agreement. However, unlike civil contracts, there is no universally recognized principle by which the defendant can enforce the terms of a proposed agreement should the government withdraw the offer before the defendant enters a guilty plea in court. Because plea agreements are a unique hybrid of contract law and criminal procedure, it remains unclear which constitutional protections apply to them. This Note analyzes United States v. Coon, a leading federal case concerning detrimental reliance on a plea agreement. Coon defines the constitutional issues so narrowly as to define away detrimental reliance as a protection. This Note argues that Coon presents a flawed constitutional analysis and is inconsistent with the general trend by courts to recognize detrimental reliance in the area of plea agreements.

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