Legal Ethics Opinion #1533

            Plea Agreements for Reduction of Sentence

You have presented a hypothetical situation in which a 
Commonwealth's Attorney regularly enters into the following
cooperative agreement with certain defendants:

(1)  The suspect pleads guilty to crime(s) for which he is  charged;

(2)  The suspect gives information through interview or grand 
     jury testimony; and 

(3)  For every felony indictment that is received [sic] based on
a    suspect's testimony or information, a set portion of a 
     suspect's own agreed sentence is suspended.

For example, the defendant pleads guilty to contributing to the
delinquency of a minor, a class 1 misdemeanor which is punishable
by a fine and up to l2 months in jail.  The defendant enters into
an agreement with the Commonwealth's Attorney and testifies
against other defendants.  For every felony indictment the
defendant helps obtain on others, he gets three months suspended. 
Thus, you 
indicate that, if the defendant helps indict four other
defendants, he receives no jail time.

You have asked the committee to opine whether, under the facts of
the inquiry, the Commonwealth's Attorney's use of such an
agreement violates the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The committee recognizes that the court has the ultimate
responsibility to review, approve and monitor each plea
agreement, making a determination of whether a defendant's plea
of guilty is freely and voluntarily made and whether the
agreement is contrary to the public's best interest.  Thus, the
committee is of the opinion that your inquiry raises a legal
issue, beyond the purview of this committee, governed by the
court's factual determination on a case-by-case basis in
accordance with Rule 3A:8 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of
Committee Opinion
May 11, 1993