US v. Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald was charged with various gun and drug offenses and unsuccessfully moved to suppress evidence found as the result of the execution of a search warrant at his home. He rejected a plea offer from the expressed his desire to enter an "open plea." At the plea hearing the district court indicated that, by pleading guilty, Fitzgerald might be unable to raise certain issues on appeal, but said that "you certainly retain your ability to appeal any decision the Court has made with regard to a motion to suppress." The Government didn't say anything about the district court's statement. The district court accepted the guilty plea and sentenced Fitzgerald to 130 moths in prison.
Fitzgerald appealed, challenging the denial of his motion to suppress, but the Fourth Circuit ordered supplemental briefing on the issue of whether he had entered "a valid conditional plea that reserved his right to appeal these issues." Ultimately, the court concluded that he had not. Although Rule 11(a)(2) requires conditional pleas to be in writing, the court noted that it deems that requirement satisfied when "the reservation is so clearly show on the record that there is no doubt that a conditional plea was agreed to." However, the other requirements of the rule - Government consent to the plea and district court approval - are mandatory. At the very least, the court held, the Government consent requirement was not met because the Government never addressed the issue during the plea hearing. The Government's concluding assertion of "that's perfect" to the district court wasn't enough. Because Fitzgerald's plea was not valid, the court vacated the judgment and remanded to the district court for Fitzgerald to decide whether to go to trial or enter a conditional plea.