Federal Court by nature is a fast paced environment legally speaking. I can honestly say that I love the pace of the court and the desire to move cases along on the docket. Cases see the light of a courtroom much faster than in state court. Anytime a person is facing a criminal case, the fear, anxiety, loss of freedom and potentially losing everything, makes the client want to have a resolution to the case as soon as possible.
I know by practice that many clients will ask how long is this going to last? I wish I could give them a definite answer, because of If could I would be predicting horse races for a living. The best answer is “it depends” on the nature of the case and the charges. It depends on how much evidence must be reviewed for a proper defense of the case.
The point to this is many cases are put on a fast track program in Texas and other states for illegals that are caught on re-entry cases. A person facing a federal sentence may choose to enter a quick guilty plea as opposed to being in a county jail or detention facility. My rule of thumb is never seek a quick guilty plea without knowing the approximate sentence you may be facing. This is exactly what happened in this case. Any time spent in federal custody will count towards a federal sentence and a client may have a defense of mistaken identity or some information for a lighter sentence.
In the case of United States v. Galvez-Quebedo. Galvez had a prior conviction for an aggravated-felony conviction. Galvez chose to plea guilty and waived his right to appeal his sentence. Galvez had previously been deported after a conviction for a felony that was a “crime of violence.” By federal law, Galvez did not have any defense to be in the country, unless his defense was mistaken identity.
The trial court applied a 16-level enhancement under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. U.S.S.G., Section 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii), calculated an advisory Guidelines range of 37–46 months imprisonment. Galvez was ordered to serve 37 months imprisonment. Galvez appealed his sentence. The Eighth Circuit dismissed an appeal. The appellate court held that “nothing in the government’s evidence or argument that contradicted the parties’ factual stipulation or otherwise breached the plea agreement; the appeal waiver was valid and enforceable.”
Two points that I think are important in a federal criminal case are one: never fast track a federal criminal sentence unless it is going to allow immediate deportation upon sentencing and second, never sign a plea agreement waiving your right to appeal an issue. In the case at hand, the defendant could have entered a blind plea and may have received essentially the same sentence. At least, he would have been allowed to review his sentence on direct appeal. At worst, he would have been in the same position.
What I do not know about this case is that his lawyer may have given him the same advice as I offered, if so, then the client made his decision. So no harm done. However, if the client was not well advised, I would want to know why he was not given an indication of the sentence he was likely to receive. There are so many of these cases in lower Texas that are handled in a short period of time, I am not sure the client is receiving adequate representation about long lasting decisions.