Monday, August 10, 2015

Know your conditions of probation BEFORE you enter your plea

You may have read a news article this past week about the unique sentencing decision by a judge in Texas.

A 21yo defendant pleaded guilty to assaulting his 19yo girlfriend's former boyfriend. The judge gave the defendant the option of (1) fifteen days in jail or (2) two years probation.

The defendant said he would have been okay with the 15 days in jail, but when he asked the judge if he could call his employer to let him know [and presumably to save his job], the judge declined to allow that.

Now, faced with that choice, I'm not surprised the defendant chose probation.

Then the judge added to the terms of probation – (1) write out a Bible verse 25 times every day, and (2) marry his girlfriend within 30 days.

Writing out a Bible verse is sufficiently problematic that unless the defendant agreed to do it, I'm sure this requirement would be easily overturned.

Requiring him to marry his girlfriend? The news article states that the judge asked the 19yo girlfriend, in open court, if she would agree with that. What's she supposed to do, in front of the judge, the attorneys, her boyfriend, and a courtroom full of people? Say “no”, thereby requiring her boyfriend to serve 15 days in jail and the high probability of losing his job?

So yes, these two young people were married at City Hall within the 30 days.

Now a looooooong time ago when I was in law school, I clerked part-time at the Y County Public Defender's office. And in all my months there, I can guarantee that our clients were fully informed of ALL of the terms of probation BEFORE they agreed to it. And the terms of probation were, oh, you know, actually RELEVANT to the charge, like anger management classes, obtain employment, stay away from drugs, etc. Never ONCE were our clients required to write Bible verses or get married.


  1. I prosecuted in Florida and Louisana and worked as a defense attorney in Louisiana. I've never heard of a defendant pleading guilty in the blind like that. Where I worked, we always had an agreed upon disposition prior to entering the plea unless a pre sentence investigation report was required and even then the defendant had the option of withdrawing his plea if something in the report was so bad that it made the judge refuse to accept our agreed upon sentence. Seems like the judge over stepped and I don't see how anyone can be required to do either of the two.

    1. I definitely agree with you there. The judge overstepped.

      Thanks for stopping by!