Ray v. Alaska

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Justia Opinion Summary

In Henry v. Alaska, the court of appeals held that a defendant who entered a plea agreement providing for a specific period of probation has the right, when being sentenced for a subsequent probation violation, to reject further probation and to serve a sentence of active imprisonment only. The court of appeals certified a question to the Alaska Supreme Court on whether the legislature intended to abrogate that right when it enacted AS 12.55.090(f). Jason Ray was arrested in October 2013 for stealing a pair of boots from a grocery store in Kodiak. Because Ray had two prior theft convictions, the State charged him with theft in the second degree. Ray pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement pursuant to Alaska Criminal Rule 11. The agreement called for Ray to receive a sentence of 24 months’ imprisonment with 20 months suspended, followed by three years of supervised probation. Ray served his four months in prison and was then released on supervised probation. Ray admitted that he had violated two conditions, and the superior court found that he had violated two others. At the disposition hearing, Ray announced that he wanted to reject further probation. However, in addition to sentencing him to serve 16 months, the superior court placed Ray on unsupervised probation for five years. The only condition of this unsupervised probation was that Ray obey the law. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded did intend to abrogate Henry: although AS 12.55.090(f) did not expressly mention a defendant’s right to reject probation, its plain text precludes a judge from reducing or terminating a previously-agreed-upon period of probation unless both the prosecution and the defendant agree, and the legislative history does not persuade the Court that the legislature intended something other than the plain meaning of the language it used.

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