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Bordenkircher v. Hayes

United States Supreme Court
434 U.S. 357 (1978)



Paul Lewis Hayes (defendant) was indicted on a charge of uttering a forged instrument in the amount of $88.30, punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. Thereafter, Hayes and his attorney met with the prosecutor to discuss a possible plea agreement. The prosecutor offered Hayes a sentence of five years in prison if he pled guilty to the uttering charge and “saved the court the inconvenience and necessity of a trial.” However, if Hayes chose not to plead guilty the prosecutor would go back to the grand jury and re-indict Hayes as a habitual offender, subjecting him to a possible mandatory term of life imprisonment due to Hayes’ two previous felony convictions. Hayes chose not to plead guilty and the prosecutor obtained an indictment charging him under the state’s Habitual Criminal Act. Hayes was subsequently found guilty of the uttering offense and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence. Hayes then filed a petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus. The court of appeals held that the prosecutor’s conduct during the plea negotiations had violated the principles which “protected defendants from the vindictive exercise of a prosecutor’s discretion,” and ordered Hayes’ sentence to be reduced to a lawful sentence imposed only for the uttering crime. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J.)

Dissent (Blackmun, J.)

Dissent (Powell, J.)

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Questions & Answers

How much leverage does a prosecutor have in pleas bargaining attempted murder?

The defendant wanted to kill Bill Gates and used a bomb. The bomb did not explode. The defendant was charged with attempted murder. What is a good plea bargain in the state of California.

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