A common occurrence in criminal law is when a client, who is out on bail, pleads guilty and is given a “promised sentence.” However, that “promise” is often conditioned on the client staying out of trouble and not being arrested prior to sentence.
What happens when a client is arrested before he or she is sentenced, for a crime he/she did not commit? That is the situation that Erwin R found himself in.
Erwin R’s attorney convinced the sentencing judge to delay sentencing until after the trial of his new case. Erwin was acquitted at trial. So one would think that the DA’s office and the Judge would be bound by the original plea deal. Think again.
The DA’s office argued that Erwin’s rearrest breached the plea deal, and convinced the Judge to unseal the records from the case in which Erwin was just acquitted. The District Attorney’s office used the unsealed records to argue for an enhanced sentence, and the judge agreed. Instead of getting the promised four years jail time, Erwin was sentenced to eight years!
The Court of Appeals, however, recently overturned the sentence on the basis that it was improper for the trial judge to have granted the prosecutor’s motion to unseal, and then consider the unsealed records in sentencing Erwin. Unfortunately, for Erwin by the time the correct conclusion was reached he had already served seven years jail time.