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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
GRIFFIN v. THE STATE.
A00A0744.
RUFFIN, Judge.
First Offender Act. Fannin Superior Court. Before Judge Hicks, Senior Judge.
Mark Griffin appeals the trial court's denial of his motion to resentence. Griffin contends that the court erred by failing to consider whether to sentence him under the First Offender Act. We disagree and affirm.
In 1996, a jury found Griffin guilty of one count each of rape, battery, and false imprisonment. 1 At Griffin's sentencing, the prosecutor told the court that OCGA 17-10-6.1 (b) set forth a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison for the crime of rape, 2 and he recommended that the court sentence Griffin to fifteen years, with ten to serve, on the rape charge. Defense counsel agreed that OCGA 17-10-6.1 (b) established a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence for rape, and he asked the judge to impose that minimum. Defense counsel then stated: "I don't know if I can ask you to come under that. I would if I could. . . ." The trial court sentenced Griffin to ten years to serve in prison for the rape charge, with concurrent sentences of ten years for false imprisonment and twelve months for battery.
The First Offender Act provides as follows:
Upon a verdict or plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere, but before an adjudication of guilt, in the case of a defendant who has not been previously convicted of a felony, the court may, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the defendant:
(1) Defer further proceeding and place the defendant on probation as provided by law; or
(2) Sentence the defendant to a term of confinement as provided by law. 4
Upon completion of a sentence of probation or confinement imposed under this act, "a first offender is discharged without any adjudication of guilt and is not considered to have a criminal conviction." 5 "A trial court is not required to grant first offender treatment, but may impose, in its discretion, any sentence prescribed by law." 6
The parties agree that at the time of Griffin's sentencing, he was eligible for first offender treatment. 7 The parties also agree that the sentence Griffin received was allowed under the law. Griffin argues, however, that even though defense counsel did not request first offender treatment for Griffin, the trial court was nevertheless obligated to consider that possibility, and that the trial court's failure to do so rendered the sentence void. 8 We disagree.
Nothing in the First Offender Act specifically requires that a trial court consider first offender status in the absence of a request by the defendant. Griffin points to a portion of the act providing that "[t]he defendant shall be informed of the terms of this article at the time of imposition of sentence." 9 Contrary to Griffin's assertion that this language "clearly establishes the duty is upon the Court to advise a defendant of his right to be considered as a First Offender," it merely requires that a defendant be fully informed of the consequences of accepting first offender treatment if the court grants such treatment and proceeds under the act. This reading is entirely consistent with the proviso that a court may not impose first offender treatment without a defendant's consent. 10
Griffin also relies on our decision in Jones v. State. 11 There, the trial judge denied the defendant's request for first offender treatment, stating that he had never used such treatment and never intended to do so. We held that the trial court's "mechanical sentencing policy" of never granting first offender status amounted to a refusal to exercise discretion, and we vacated the sentence and remanded for the judge to consider the merits of the defendant's first offender request. Here, there is no indication that the trial court had an inflexible policy of never granting first offender treatment or that the court failed to exercise its discretion in that regard. The record simply shows that Griffin never requested first offender treatment, so the matter was never brought to the court's attention. Jones does not apply here.
In the absence of specific language in the First Offender Act mandating a trial court to consider sua sponte whether to apply first offender treatment, we will not judicially create such a requirement.
Thurbert E. Baker, Attorney General, Michael E. Hobbs, Counsel to Attorney General, David S. McLaughlin, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
Notes
1  See Griffin v. State, 224 Ga. App. 225 (480 SE2d 608) (1997) (affirming convictions).
2  OCGA 17-10-6.1 (b) provides that "no portion" of the ten-year mandatory minimum sentence for one of seven enumerated violent felonies, including rape, "shall be suspended, stayed, probated, deferred, or withheld by the sentencing court and shall not be reduced by any form of pardon, parole, or commutation of sentence by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles."
3  Griffin does not argue that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request first offender treatment.
4  OCGA 42-8-60 (a).
5  State v. Allmond, 225 Ga. App. 509-510 (484 SE2d 306) (1997).
6  (Punctuation omitted.) Head v. State, 203 Ga. App. 730, 731 (4) (417 SE2d 398) (1992).
7  In 1998, after Griffin's sentencing, OCGA 17-10-6.1 (b) was modified to provide that persons convicted of a "serious violent felony," including rape, are not eligible for first offender treatment. See Fleming v. State, 271 Ga. 587, 588-589 (523 SE2d 315) (1999). However, we apply the law that was in existence at the time of Griffin's sentencing. See Hicks v. State, 228 Ga. App. 235, 237 (1) (b) (494 SE2d 342) (1997).
8  Although a trial court lacks jurisdiction to modify a sentence after the term of court has ended or 60 days have passed, the court may resentence the defendant at any time if the original sentence was void. Barber v. State, 240 Ga. App. 56, 57 (522 SE2d 238) (1999).
9  OCGA 42-8-61.
10  See OCGA 42-8-60 (a).
Larry D. Wolfe, for appellant.
DECIDED JUNE 12, 2000 -- CERT. APPLIED FOR.
Thursday May 21 02:17 EDT


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