Criminal Practice Tips
July 12, 2010
State v. Thomas, 995 A.2d 65 (Conn., 2010). The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that, as a matter of first impression, constitutional jeopardy did not attach at time trial court accepted defendant’s guilty plea. Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of risk of injury to a child. The court accepted this plea and ordered a presentence investigation, and continued the matter for sentencing. During the plea canvass, the court explained to defendant that the sentence would “likely” be that agreed upon but that the victim’s position may affect the court. After receiving and reviewing the presentence report, which included new and incriminating information, the court convened a hearing to provide the victim an opportunity to be heard. Following the hearing, the court declined to impose the sentence contemplated in the plea agreement, vacated the guilty plea, and placed the matter on the trial list. Defendant moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that their reinstatement would violate his right under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution to not be twice placed in jeopardy. The court denied defendant’s motion, and defendant took an interlocutory appeal. The appellate court identified four common considerations for determining whether jeopardy has attached: (1) whether the court has accepted the defendant’s guilty plea; (2) whether the court has rendered judgment and sentenced defendant; (3) whether the court’s acceptance of the plea was conditional; and (4) whether the circumstances surrounding the court’s acceptance implicate policy concerns. The court declined to follow a bright line rule regarding attachment of jeopardy and instead held that considering whether jeopardy attaches to a guilty plea requires analyzing the particular circumstances relating to the guilty plea in light of the policy considerations underlying the protection. The court then found that the acceptance of the guilty plea was conditional for two reasons. First, under Connecticut law, once the court ordered a presentence investigation, acceptance of a plea is necessarily contingent; second, recognizing the rights afforded victims by Connecticut’s constitution, “when the victim chooses to make a statement, acceptance of a guilty plea must be contingent upon hearing from the victim in order to provide the victim with a meaningful right to participate in the plea bargaining process.” The court further found that there was not an expectation of finality, and that the case did not involve prosecutorial overreaching or implicate other policy concerns. Consequently, the court held that jeopardy did not attach and affirmed the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss.
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