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No. 96-667. Argued April 15, 1997-Decided May 27,1997

Respondent pleaded guilty to several federal fraud counts, pursuant to a plea agreement in which the Government agreed to move for dismissal of other charges. The District Court accepted the plea but deferred decision on whether to accept the plea agreement, pending completion of the presentence report. Before sentencing and the court's decision on the plea agreement, respondent sought to withdraw his plea. Finding that he had not provided a "fair and just reason" for withdrawing the plea before sentencing, as required by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(e), the court denied respondent's request. The court then accepted the plea agreement, entered judgment, and sentenced respondent. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that if a court defers acceptance of a plea or of a plea agreement, a defendant may withdraw his plea for any or no reason, until the court accepts both the plea and the agreement.

Held: In the circumstances presented here, a defendant may not withdraw his plea unless he shows a "fair and just reason" under Rule 32(e). Nothing in the text of Rule 11, which sets out the prerequisites to accepting a guilty plea and plea agreement, supports the Court of Appeals' holding. That text shows that guilty pleas can be accepted while plea agreements are deferred and the acceptance of the two can be separated in time. The Court of Appeals' requirement that a district court shall not accept a guilty plea without accepting the plea agreement is absent from the list of prerequisites to accepting a plea set out in Rules l1(c) and (d). If a court decides to reject a plea agreement such as the one here, the defendant is given "the opportunity to then withdraw the plea," Rule 11(e)(4), and he does not have to comply with Rule 32(e)'s "fair and just reason" requirement. This provision implements the commonsense notion that a defendant can no longer be bound by an agreement that the court has refused to sanction, and its necessary implication is that if the court has neither rejected nor accepted the agreement, the defendant is not granted the "opportunity" to automatically withdraw his plea. The Court of Appeals' holding contradicts this implication and thus strips Rule 11(e)(4) of any meaning. It also debases the judicial proceeding at which a defendant pleads and the court accepts his plea by allowing him to withdraw his plea simply on a lark.


In addition, the holding would allow little, if any, time for the "fair and just reason" standard to apply, for a court's decision to accept a plea agreement is often made at the sentencing hearing. Respondent's arguments-that the "fair and just reason" standard was not meant to apply to guilty pleas conditioned on acceptance of the plea agreement, and that the Advisory Committee's Notes to Rule 32(b)(3) support the Court of Appeals' holding-are rejected. Pp. 673-680.

92 F.3d 779, reversed.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

James A. Feldman argued the cause for the United States.

With him on the briefs were Acting Solicitor General Dellinger, Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard, Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben, and Patty Merkamp Stemler.

Jonathan D. Soglin, by appointment of the Court, 519 U. S. 1106, argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent. *

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Rule 32(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure states that a district court may allow a defendant to withdraw his guilty plea before he is sentenced "if the defendant shows any fair and just reason." After the defendant in this case pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, the District Court accepted his plea but deferred decision on whether to accept the plea agreement. The defendant then sought to withdraw his plea. We hold that in such circumstances a defendant may not withdraw his plea unless he shows a "fair and just reason" under Rule 32(e).

A federal grand jury indicted respondent Robert Hyde on eight counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and other fraudrelated crimes. On the morning of his trial, respondent indicated his desire to enter plea negotiations with the Government. Those negotiations produced a plea agreement

* Lisa Kemler filed a brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as amicus curiae urging affirmance.

Full Text of Opinion


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