The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that plea bargains do not prohibit defendants from challenging the constitutionality of their convictions.
The decision held that even though a guilty plea waives a defendant’s right to appeal their case or challenge the sentence, it does not waive their right to question the state’s right to charge them in the first place.
Criminal Legal News reported the case as Class v. United States (2018).
“There are over 4,800 legal restrictions facing people with convictions after sentence completion…73% of these legal barriers are permanent.” “SAFE AND SOUND: …” by Californians For Safety and Justice Nov. 2017
The case involved Rodney Class, who had pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm. He appealed his conviction, but was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit because of his plea, the report said. He claimed his conviction was unconstitutional because it violated the 2nd Amendment.
His appeal was upheld 6-3 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
The relevant question before the court was “[d]oes a guilty plea bar a criminal defendant from later appealing his conviction on grounds that the statute of his conviction violates the Constitution?” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer, for the court.
The court analysis was based on 50 years of prior cases relating to plea bargains and recognized that not all guilty plea challenges are within its jurisdiction. But, the justices agreed, in some instances they are.
“In 1935 the Supreme Court declared that a prosecutors job is more than merely winning every case by racking up convictions; it also included seeing that justice is done.” “Pressing Pause on Marijuana Convictions” NYT Opinion July 30, 2018
The court explained that class action claims did not focus on “case-related constitutional defects that occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea. They could not, for example, have been ‘cured’ through a new indictment by a properly selected grand jury.”
Their decision rested on the fact that class was not challenging the fact that he did the deed, but instead disputing the right of the government to “constitutionally prosecute” him for it.