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People V Patel - Can Plea Agreements Affect Probation Termination in Arizona?

State v. Patel
Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, Department D
April 1, 1986

Holding: A trial court has the authority to terminate a defendant’s probation regardless of the fact that the terms of a plea agreement call for voluntary deportation and a fixed probationary period.

Why This Case is Important: The state may not limit the trial court’s authority to terminate a defendant’s probation as this power is inherent in the courts, and there is no statute or rule that states otherwise. As a result, the trial court may terminate a defendant’s probation even if a term of the plea agreement is that the defendant should be on probation for a fixed amount of time.

Furthermore, this case states that it is improper for a trial court to order a defendant to voluntary deportation. It is the federal government that has exclusive authority over such matters. Therefore a plea agreement that calls for a defendant’s voluntary deportation is unenforceable, and it is within the trial court’s discretion to go against such a request.

Facts of This Case: The defendant in this case pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated assault. Pursuant to the agreement, the trial court ordered a suspended sentence, five years of probation, and that the defendant agree to deportation voluntarily. However, the defendant was unable to secure voluntary deportation, even after the Immigration and Naturalization Services ordered him deported as well. The defendant subsequently filed for termination of probation, claiming that it was impossible for him to secure deportation, and that his probation was hindering his ability to seek a safe harbor from deportation under a newly enacted Immigration Reform and Control Act. The State opposed the defendant’s request.

The Adult Probation Department supported the defendant’s petition for probation termination, indicating that the defendant was a successful probationer. The trial court took this under consideration and granted an order terminating the defendant’s probation early. It is from this decision the State appealed.

The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court in ordering the defendant’s probation terminated early. The Court of Appeals stated that even if a plea bargain specifically states condition that must be met during the probationary period, Arizona Revised Statues section 13-910(E) authorizes the trial court to terminate probation and discharge the probationer if it would serve the ends of justice and the conduct of the defendant warrants it. The Court of Appeals therefore determined that it was improper for a prosecutor to control the conditions of probation. The appeals court concluded that a plea agreement couldn’t bind the trial court to a fixed probationary period.

The Arizona Court of Appeals also held that it was proper to terminate probation, even if the condition of voluntary deportation was not met, because the federal government has the sole authority to control such matters. Because the trial court was not the proper forum to order deportation of the defendant, it was proper for the trial court to order probation terminated early in this case.

Key Language: The state and a defendant may not bind the trial court to a fixed period of probation. Such an effort is prohibited by statute, court rule, and public policy […] The proper forum in which to resolve the deportation issue is the INS.

Expert Advise: “As long as there is evidence that establishes a defendant is eligible for early probation termination, then a trial court has the authority to grant his request. This authority is given to the trial court by statute, case law, and public policy, and cannot be taken away by the State.” -Attorney Mathew Higbee.

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