Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When Does a "Conviction" Occur?

by James Eckert

Many statutes impose harsher penalties on a defendant who commits a crime
after he has been "convicted" of another crime. For example, a UUMV
conviction after a prior is more serious, the second DWI is a felony and so
on. Today, in People v Montilla, the Court of Appeals held that a
defendant is convicted, at least for some purposes, the day he pleads

A judgment of conviction is based on the date sentence has been
imposed. However, in order to sustain a conviction under PL 265.02(1) - CPW3, instead of CPW4, the Court of Appeals ruled that "conviction" meant only that the defendant had pled guilty, not that there was a judgment of conviction.
Therefore, after the defendant pled guilty, but before he was sentenced, he
stood "convicted" of the crime he pled to and was therefore subject to
harsher penalties for possession of a weapon.

The Court did point out that recidivist statutes require the imposition of
sentence to constitute a prior conviction, so Montilla does not support a
felony DWI charge the day after the defendant pleads to, but is not
sentenced for, a DWI. However, expect that the statute will be applied to
any other use of the term "convicted" where it is not absolutely clear that
the statute is for recidivists.

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