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Neither the Constitution nor the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requires that a plea agreement must encompass all of the significant actions that either side might take. If the agreement does not establish a prosecutorial commitment on the full range of possible sanctions, the court should recognize the parties' limitation of their assent. Courts regularly uphold prosecutorial measures that were not precluded by agreement. While the government must be held to the promises it made, it will not be bound to those it did not make.
Defendant was convicted of several counts of armed robbery, based on his guilty pleas. The plea agreement provided that sentences for two of the counts would run consecutively and that sentences for the remaining counts would run concurrent with the first two sentences. The district court imposed consecutive and concurrent sentences and ordered defendant to pay restitution to the banks robbed. Defendant appealed, arguing that the prosecution breached the plea agreement.
Under the circumstances, did the prosecution breach the plea agreement?
The court held that there was no breach of the plea agreement because the sentences were imposed as agreed, consecutively and concurrently. Further, because the plea agreement did not address restitution, the imposition of restitution did not violate the agreement. The court found that any error committed by the district court in accepting the plea without advising defendant of the possibility of restitution was harmless. The omission did not affect defendant's substantial rights because the restitution ordered was less than the amount defendant could have had to pay in fines, and the district court specifically apprised defendant of the possibility of fines.