Written by attorney Sean Keith McQuaid

Too Pretty for Prison, but Not Too Pretty for the Appellate Court

By now everyone has heard the story of the blonde haired, blue-eyed former middle school teacher, Debra LaFave, who was described by her attorney as too pretty for prison after allegedly committing sexual battery on a 14 year-old boy. Well, the Second District Court of Appeal must have forgotten what she looks like.

As background, in 2005, Ms. LaFave agreed to a negotiated plea agreement with the State which called for 10 years of supervision with no early termination. Six years later, her lawyer petitioned and successfully argued in front of the trial judge that she should be rewarded for her good conduct with an early termination of probation, thus ending her sentence. After the State appealed, the Appellate Court agreed that the trial judge departed from the essential requirements of the law resulting in a gross miscarriage of justice by granting the relief after Ms. LaFave “unabashedly sought early termination." Ouch, they sent the trial judge and her lawyer a message and she has to finish the remaining 4 years of her probation.

The bottom line is that in criminal cases, negotiated pleas can generally include just about anything and both the Defendant and the State are forever bound by the agreement. The condition of “no early termination" is frequently requested by the State when it views the offer as favorable, but Defendants need to think twice before agreeing to it. A lot can happen between the time of the plea and the conclusion of the sentence…including losing one’s prettiness

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