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Trial Court Mishandles 7411 Deferral Probation for Possession of Marijuana

The court held that in denying the “defendant’s request for probation under § 7411(1) for the reason that he had to prove his worth,” the trial court “misconstrued the deferral process set forth in § 7411(1) and necessarily abused its discretion.” Thus, the court vacated defendant’s sentence, including the adjudication of guilt, and remanded for resentencing. He pleaded guilty to marijuana possession.

The trial court sentenced him to a year of probation. It clarified at the hearing on defendant’s motion for resentencing that “its decision to deny deferral was not rooted in the erroneous PSIR report stating that defendant possessed a pound of marijuana, or in its colloquy with defendant regarding his intent to sell the marijuana.” Rather, the trial court “stated that it would deny deferral under § 7411(1), ‘giving [defendant] the opportunity to earn it [expungement] as a matter of fact as opposed to granting it when his future is still uncertain.’ The trial court’s stated reason for denying deferral—making sure that defendant ‘earn[ed] it’—is the very purpose of § 7411(1). In order for a defendant to have the proceedings dismissed without an adjudication of guilt under § 7411(1), he or she must ‘earn it.’ Any violation of probation allows the court to enter an adjudication of guilt.” Thus, the court concluded that the trial court “misapprehended the process for a deferred adjudication under the statute.” It instructed the trial court on remand to “consider defendant’s request for deferral proceedings under § 7411(1)” and to “decide the request on its merits.”

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