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Considering cooperation and non-prosecution agreements

When facing a serious criminal situation, many Illinois residents may not fully understand their legal options. While you likely know that you have the ability to create and present a criminal defense against any charges you face, you may not know about certain deals or agreements that could potentially result in your facing lesser consequences for the alleged crime.

Plea bargains or plea deals are not an uncommon tool in criminal justice cases. Often, these deals result in individuals receiving lesser consequences or the dismissal of certain charges for pleading guilty to other allegations. However, you may not have heard of cooperation agreements or non-prosecution agreements.

Cooperation agreement

As the name suggests, a cooperation agreement may come into play if a person chooses to cooperate with authorities. This type of agreement may not be an option in your case. However, in the event that it is, here is some information about this type of agreement to consider:

  • You, as the cooperator, would agree to plead guilty to a felony charge.
  • You would agree to testify against other accused parties.
  • Your cooperation would result in prosecutors promising to file a 5K1.1 letter, which would request a lower sentence due to the help you provided the government.
  • The court often -- but not always -- provides a lesser sentence after receiving a 5K1.1 letter.
  • You could still face significant consequences in this type of arrangement due to pleading guilty to a felony.

This type of agreement is not the only one that could be available.

Non-prosecution agreement

The other type of agreement that could apply under special circumstances is a non-prosecution agreement. If offered, this type of agreement could result in you, as the cooperator, agreeing to testify against other parties and the prosecution agreeing not to prosecute you for specific actions. With this agreement, you would not have to plead guilty, and as a result, you would not risk the consequences of a felony conviction.

This type of agreement does not come up often. The Department of Justice's U.S. Attorney's Manual indicates that this type of agreement should only be used in cases where serious offenses have occurred and have relative importance. However, the Manual does not specifically dictate what cases are considered important.

Considering agreements

If any type of agreement, deal or bargain is offered to you as part of your criminal case, it is wise for you to give this option your full consideration. Your legal counsel could help you understand the pros and cons of such agreements and offer advice as you make your decision.

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