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Name: Missouri v. Frye
Case #: 10-444
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 03/21/2012
Subsequent History: 132 S.Ct. 1399; 182 L.Ed.2d 379

The right to effective assistance of counsel includes the right to have any formal plea bargain offer communicated along with its fixed expiration date. Frye was charged with the felony of driving with a revoked license. The prosecution made a formal offer which included an alternative of a plea to a misdemeanor with a maximum of one year in custody and a recommendation of 90 days. The offer expired without Frye being advised by his counsel. Ultimately he entered a plea of guilty without the benefit of a plea agreement and he was sentenced to three years in prison. He was granted postconviction relief in state court because of his counsel’s deficient performance. The remedy was to deem the guilty plea withdrawn and to allow Frye to either insist on a trial or plead to any offense the prosecutor deemed appropriate. The state sought certiorari. Plea bargaining is central to the administration of justice as shown by the fact that 97% of federal convictions and 94% of state convictions are the result of plea bargains. The standard for counsel’s performance is informed by the codified standards of practice which recommend prompt communication of all plea offers. The prosecution and trial courts can implement measures to ensure against late, frivolous or fabricated claims. A defendant who claims this form of ineffective assistance by the trial counsel will have to demonstrate a reasonable probability that they would have accepted the earlier plea offer if afforded effective assistance of counsel. The case was remanded for state law questions in the framework of Strickland v. Washington (1984) 466 U.S. 668.