Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

attorneys

Plea Bargain Not a Requirement to Receive First Offender Probation

A woman found guilty of drug possession got her sentence overturned recently after her lawyers persuaded the Illinois Appellate Court that the trial judge improperly inserted his personal beliefs into the sentencing process. The woman qualified for the first offender probation program, and the trial judge should not have refused her that option based solely on his opinion that the accused person should have pled guilty and entered a plea agreement in order to gain entry into the program.

A woman found guilty of drug possession got her sentence overturned recently after her lawyers persuaded the Illinois Appellate Court that the trial judge improperly inserted his personal beliefs into the sentencing process. The woman qualified for the first offender probation program, and the trial judge should not have refused her that option based solely on his opinion that the accused person should have pled guilty and entered a plea agreement in order to gain entry into the program.

Rhonda Miller's case involved an arrest by Freeport Police in October 2011. Based upon information secretly provided to the police by the driver of the vehicle in which Miller was riding, officers stopped the car and searched the passengers. The police found crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia on Miller. Prosecutors charged her with possession of a controlled substance.

Miller was convicted on the drug charges. The state asked for jail time in addition to 30 months of probation. Miller's lawyer asked the court to sentence the woman to two years of probation under the first-time offender program. Under this program, if the offender completes the period of probation successfully, he or she does not have a conviction placed on his or her criminal record. Given the seriously damaging effects having a felony conviction record can cause, the first-time offender program can have significant advantages.

The court sentenced Miller to 36 days in jail and 24 months probation and did not place her in the first-time offender program. When Miller asked why she did not receive first offender probation, the judge indicated that she should have worked out "some sort of agreement" - in other words, a plea bargain - with the state.

On appeal, Miller successfully challenged her sentence. The trial judge's statements at the time of sentencing appeared to reveal that he believed that first offender probation was only available for accused persons who plead guilty or for people who work out plea deals with the state. The law states that the program is available to any person who was found guilty of a "qualifying" offense (and possession of a controlled substance was one such crime), had never been on probation or court supervision before, and consented to entry into the program. While the trial judge was entitled to consider Miller's "lack of remorse" in his determinations regarding whether first offender probation was the proper sentence, he was not allowed to deny Miller entry into the program based on his personal beliefs that admission into the program should be limited to people who plead guilty or work out plea agreements with the state.

If you are facing conviction on a felony charge, that blot on your record can do serious harm. The first offender probation program can offer you useful benefits in avoiding the damage that a felony record can do. To ensure you are properly considered for first offender probation (if you qualify), you need an attorney knowledgeable in this area of the law. Consult the experienced DuPage County criminal defense attorneys at Martin & Kent. Our skilled attorneys are highly familiar with all sentencing alternatives and options and can help you obtain an outcome that will minimize the damage on your life and livelihood.

Contact us online or by calling (888) 388-9151 to schedule your confidential initial consultation at no charge.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information