Friday, December 10, 2010

When does a person become a convicted felon?

This a tricky question, though important for figuring out collateral consequences of a plea.  The Supreme Court of Kentucky in Thomas v. Com., 95 S.W.3d 828 (Ky. 2003) has held that a person becomes a convicted felon as soon as they enter a plea of guilty.  In Thomas, the Court’s rationale was that once a person enters a plea of guilty freely, knowingly, and intelligently, they are convicted.  In the Thomas case, the question was whether a guilty plea equaled a conviction if the case was supposed to be diverted at a later date.  The court held that a person in that situation is a convicted felon until such time that the diversion was successfully completed and the case dismissed.  This also applies to cases where a plea is entered but the case has not received a final judgment yet.  In Grace v. Commonwealth, Ky.App., 915 S.W.2d 754 (1996), the Court ruled that a person is considered to be convicted from the time guilt is determined which is at the entry of the plea of guilty.

Contributed by La Mer Kyle-Griffiths, Juvenile Post Disposition Branch Manager