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September 02, 2005

What is Allocution? Take II

Last week Blonde Justice and I exchanged notes about the meaning of the word “allocution.” I noted that the U.S. Attorneys' plea offers generally indicate whether the AUSA (Assistant U.S. Attorney) wants to waive or reserve allocution. I thought that meant they were waiving or reserving the right to argue at sentencing about specific terms of the sentence, such as how long a period of incarceration might be, or how how many hours of community service, etc. Blondie explained that, in fact, “allocution” is a term of art that usually refers to a defendant's formal recitation of guilt. That made sense to me and I thought I had it figured out.

However, now I'm looking at a plea offer from the AUSA and it says (among other things) the United States will agree to:

___Waive _X_Reserve Allocution (the right to allocute at the time of sentencing)

So what does that mean? It doesn't make much sense to me that the prosecutor is saying she's reserving the right to demand a formal recitation of guilt from the defendant. Instead, the prosecutor reserves the right “to allocute”—that suggests the prosecutor is going to do something, not the defendant. That's why, in this context, “allocution” seems to refer to argument, and the verb “to allocute” seems to mean “to argue.” And if that's true, it's stupid. And if it's not true, it's still stupid because it confuses me and I don't like to be confused.

The lesson here is really this: If something confuses me, that means it's stupid. If everyone will just remember that we'll all get along much better.

Confusing matters further, the plea offer also has a blank for the prosecutor to check that reads:

_X_Limit allocution to: ___(insert period of time here; e.g. 30 days)___

So what can “allocution” be if you limit it to X days? Does that mean the prosecutor reserves the right to argue, but agrees not to argue for more than X days in jail? Or, um, what?

But, and so, if anyone has any more thoughts on this allocution question, I'm listening. It's very possible I'm just being dense. It's also possible I'm looking for reasons to say the prosecutors are being pompous and stupid, even if such reasons don't really exist. Hmph.

Posted September 2, 2005 06:14 AM | 3L crimlaw

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Black's Law Dictionary says; "A trial judge's formal address to a convicted defendant, asking him or her to speak in mitigation of the sentence to be imposed." See Fed. R. Crim. Proc. 32(c)(3)(c). So it sounds like the attorney is just reserving the right to have the judge do that at the sentencing. And the time limit must just mean to speak to a certain period of time in the defendant's life.

Posted by: sydney at September 2, 2005 12:03 PM

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