On Wednesday October 11th, John Cusack’s alleged stalker became a prime example of how many plea bargains are rejected. While entering a no-contest plea, Emily Leatherman claimed that her attorney forced her to enter into the plea agreement. So, the judge rejected the plea and instructed the attorneys to start picking a jury. As she was taken from the courtroom, Ms. Leatherman changed her mind and said she wanted to take the deal. Two days later, the judge accepted her plea.

Some people wonder if the judge did the right thing by refusing to accept Ms. Leatherman’s plea. Under the law, a court can’t take a defendant’s guilty plea unless it is “knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.” In other words, you have to understand that you are pleading guilty, no one can be forcing you to plead guilty, and you have to be informed of the facts of your case and other important details in order to plead guilty. Therefore, if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or are suffering from a mental illness that prevents you from understanding what you are doing, the court can’t accept your guilty plea. Many defendants are surprised when they have to answer pages of questions before they can enter a guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) plea. But, this paperwork is necessary for the defense attorney and the court to be sure that you are aware of your rights, that you know what you are pleading to, and that you are entering your plea voluntarily.

When you have a plea deal, it’s important to make sure the deal is right for you and that you understand what you are doing.