The scheme allegedly cooked up by the two defendants was actually pretty elaborate: Forged checks were used to purchase auto parts at a nearby dealerships. Those parts would then be resold for cash to third-party buyers at smaller auto shops.
Of course, it didn’t last. OurBirmingham criminal defense attorneys understand that the duo – a man and a woman – were arrested not long after dealerships began reporting similar problems with bouncing checks.
The mom-and-pop auto shops reportedly were not aware that the parts they were buying weren’t legitimately owned in the first place.
Now, the pair have been sentenced after both entering something known as a “blind plea.” This is when a defendant pleads guilty to the charges, with no special guarantee that the judge is going to cut him or her a break, as you might get in a normal plea bargain, brokered between the defense and prosecuting attorney.
Blind pleas are extremely risky, as they essentially amount to the defendant throwing herself at the mercy of the court.
In most plea bargains, if the prosecution agrees to recommend a reduced sentence and the judge refuses to follow that recommendation, instead imposing a harsher sentence, usually the defendant has the option to withdraw that guilty plea and then go on to trial in hopes of a more favorable outcome. Those who submit a blind plea, however, don’t have this option.
There are a few instances where it might be advisable. Examples would be if the prosecution has a very good case, and/or the judge has a reputation for going easy on those who come clean about their role in the accused crimes.
But reaching this conclusion isn’t something you should do lightly.
In this case, it may have worked out.
The female defendant in this case was facing six counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree (Alabama Code 13A-9-6) and a single count of theft of property in the second degree (Alabama Code 13A-8-4). Both of these are Class C felonies, which means with all charges totaled, she was facing a minimum of 14 years and a maximum of life in prison.
The judge chose to sentence her to a 15-year-term – but it was split. So she will be allowed to serve two years in prison, followed by two years probation. If she violates her probation, she would be sent back to prison to serve the rest of her sentence.
Given all the facts, it does appear in this case that a blind plea agreement worked in her favor. Same for her co-defendant, who was given a 10-year split sentence, with a requirement to serve at least 29 months behind bars, followed by four years of probation.
As this case reveals, check forgery is taken quite seriously, regardless of the amount.
Possession of a forged instrument is defined as the possession of a fraudulent or falsified deed, will, contract, check, note, draft or any other commercial instrument that has the ability to transfer money, property or rights to an individual. In order to meet the threshold for criminal conduct, prosecutors have to prove that your possession was accompanied by criminal intent.
A conviction on a single count mandates a minimum of two years behind bars.
You absolutely can’t afford to take your chances with a public defender.