What is a Stipulated Sentence?
A stipulated sentence appears in a case where a plea bargain has been reached in a criminal case. When a plea bargain is reached in court, a stipulated sentence or a joint recommendation is when the defense, you and your attorney, and the prosecution, which is typically the district attorney, agree on a sentence for the charge.
Both sides come to the mutual agreement to ensure that the punishment is appropriate. It is the judge’s position to apply a sentence, and the stipulated sentence is offered to him as a reasonable and agreed upon sentence.
Also referred to as a joint recommendation, the judge receives it as a possible sentence. The key word here is “possible” because the judge is not required to apply the stipulated sentence. Many criminal defense lawyers mistakenly believe that the judge has his hands tied and he must accept the sentence, but that is not true., even though they do 99 percent of the time.
The reason the stipulated sentence works so well with all parties, the defense lawyer, defendant, the district attorney and the judge is the same reason that a plea bargain is almost always accepted; the courts would be overcrowded and backed up for years if they didn’t exist.
A stipulated sentence reduces the time the judge has to spend in determining a unique, logical sentence for every defendant, so the docket keeps moving.