Tuesday, January 23, 2007

AD4: sentencing court's statement that it was "bound" by People's sentencing recommendation = failure to exercise discretion

People v Dowdell, 2006 NY Slip Op 09911 [available here]

Upon defendant's plea of guilty, the People agreed to recommend a sentence of less than 5 to 15 years to the court if defendant cooperated. Apparently, the defendant did not cooperate, and the District Attorney did not make the sentencing recommendation. Based on the District Attorney's refusal to recommend a sentence less than 5 to 15 years, the sentencing court "indicated that it was bound to impose the sentence of 5 to 15 years", i.e. the sentencing court did not think it was allowed to impose a lesser sentence because the People did not ask for one. The Fourth Department reversed, noting that the sentencing decision is within the "'court's discretion . . . made only after careful consideration of all facts available at the time of sentencing.'" (Dowdell, 2006 NY Slip Op 09911.) Abdicating that discretion to the District Attorney is reversible error.