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LEO addresses plea deal restriction

A prosecutor cannot offer a plea agreement to a defense attorney that makes not disclosing the identity of a witness to the defendant a condition of the deal, according to the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Legal Ethics.

The committee said in Legal Ethics Opinion 1854 that Rule of Professional Conduct 3.4(h) prohibits a lawyer from asking another person not to give relevant information to another party.

Moreover, the committee said, it would be unethical under Rule 1.4(c) for defense counsel to withhold information that would be pertinent to the defendant’s decision to accept a plea agreement.

However, it would be permissible, the committee said, to offer a plea based on information from an informant who is not identified to the defense attorney.

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