Thursday, April 12, 2012

KY SC March 22 - Knox- Hammer Clause

MICHAEL KNOX V. COMMONWEALTH, 2010-SC-816-MR, March 22, 2012, Reversing and Remanding for a new sentencing.  Hammer Clause.

While the Court did not bar hammer clauses from plea agreements, it held that a judge’s commitment to impose a hammer clause without proper consideration of the other relevant factors --including the contents of the presentence report required by RCr 11.02 and KRS 532.050, as well as the nature and circumstances of the specific crimes to which the defendant pled guilty, and the history, character, and condition of the defendant as required by KRS 533.110, is an abuse of discretion.

PRACTICE TIP:  Knox's counsel specifically preserved this issue for appeal by requesting that alternatives to the hammer clause sentence be considered, and the trial court declined.  The Court noted, however, that a trial court's failure to comply with the sentencing prerequisites of KRS 533.010(1) and (2) is reviewable on appeal without preservation because even defendants who have pled guilty "have the right to be sentenced after due consideration of all applicable law." See Hughes v. Commonwealth, 875 S.W.2d 99, 100 (Ky. 1994).

 Contributed by Susan Balliet