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Gou-Leonhardt v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

April 11, 2014

CHRISTIAN GOU-LEONHARDT, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Patrick S. Hammers, Judge. Trial Court No. 4FA-11-1153 CR.

William R. Satterberg Jr., Law Offices of William R. Satterberg, Jr., Fairbanks, for the Appellant.

Risa C. Leonard, Assistant District Attorney, Fairbanks, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 701

ALLARD, Judge.

In 2011, Christian Gou-Leonhardt pleaded guilty to felony driving under the influence [1] pursuant to a plea agreement that granted him admission to the Fairbanks Wellness Court. The plea agreement specified that if Gou-Leonhardt successfully completed the wellness court program, he would receive a sentence of 24 months' imprisonment with all 24 months suspended, and 3 years of unsupervised probation.

After Gou-Leonhardt successfully completed the wellness court program, he filed a motion asking the superior court to deviate from this plea agreement and grant him a suspended imposition of sentence so he could have his conviction set aside if he successfully completed probation.[2] Gou-Leonhardt asserted that AS 28.35.028(b) gave the court the authority to unilaterally alter the plea agreement and impose a suspended imposition of sentence " notwithstanding ... any other provision of law."

The superior court disagreed with this expansive view of its authority and sentenced Gou-Leonhardt according to the terms of his plea agreement. Gou-Leonhardt now appeals that decision. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm the judgment of the superior court.

Why we conclude the superior court was bound by the terms of the plea agreement

The Alaska Legislature has authorized a system of wellness courts, a jail diversion program for substance abusers that seeks to promote their abstinence and recovery by offering them intensive treatment and community supervision in lieu of imprisonment.[3] The statutory framework for wellness courts is found in AS 28.35.028.

Under this statute, both the prosecutor and the defendant must consent to a defendant's participation in the program.[4] If the parties agree to the defendant's participation, and if the defendant is accepted for admission into the program, the statute then requires the defendant to enter a plea of guilty or no contest and directs the court " to enter a judgment of conviction for the offense or offenses for which the defendant has pleaded." [5]

Although the statute allows a defendant to plead guilty or no contest with no pre-conditions, the statute also permits the defendant and the State " to enter into a plea agreement to determine the offense or offenses to which the defendant is required to ...


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