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Posts made in July, 2011

By on Jul 3, 2011 in Constitution, Court, Criminal, Noah Weil, Procedure, Sentencing/Penalties, Uncategorized | 3 comments

When a defendant is convicted at trial or pleads guilty, that defendant gets sentenced. As I explained before, the maximum sentence for a crime depends on its classification. That classification also affects probation, the subject of today’s post. When a defendant is sentenced they may receive probation, which I’ll go into in a moment. Not receiving probation is simple enough: the court sentences them to a term of jail “and close.” For example, someone may plead guilty to a theft in Seattle Municipal (gross misdemeanor). The prosecutor and defense could work out a plea for “5 days and close.” If the court accepts the plea (more on that another time) the defendant takes their 5 days and when it’s over, their time in the system is finished. A defendant is, by law, entitled to the credit served in custody pending the crime. Thus, and especially if the defendant didn’t bail out and they spent a bunch of time in jail awaiting the next hearing, a sentence may be “credit for time served and close.” In that case, the person is released from jail that day. And then they’re done with the system. Generally, closing out a file is rare. The prosecution, and often the court, want probation for a defendant. It lets them keep an eye on a defendant, and if the defendant isn’t doing the right things, it allows the court to sanction them. Probation in the lower courts work like this: a defendant is sentenced to the maximum they can receive. For that theft above, it’s 365 days. Then some of that jail time is “suspended,” meaning the defendant only serves a portion. This is written on plea forms as, e.g. 365/360, which means a defendant is sentenced to 365 with all but 360 days suspended. Suspending a big chunk of the sentence is the carrot to induce a plea. Unsuspending days if/when the person violates probation is the stick. Probation falls into two categories: passive or active. Passive probation is the default. If the court is going to do the suspended sentence route, the defendant will be ordered to commit no new criminal law violations and update the court with changes of address. Basically, if the...

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