I, like Martinez' counsel, filed motions to enforce their guilty plea in various Common Pleas courts around the state. I sought, like Martinez, to enforce the terms of their pre-2012 plea agreements. Martinez focuses exclusively on the sanctity pleas agreement as a contract into which the government entered with these defendant. Focusing defendants' compliance with their side of the bargain, Martinez, and one other case, Commonwealth v. Hainesworth, 2013 PA Super 318, 82 A.3d 444 (Pa. Super. 2013), present similar situated defendants. In those cases the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that the Contract Clauses of the Pennsylvania, Pa. Const. art. I, § 17, and United States Constitutions, U.S. Const. art. I, § 10, cl. 1, prohibit the Pennsylvania Legislature from enacting laws that retroactively impair contract rights.
The Martinez case question was whether Hainesworth's ruling, baring reclassification for defendants who complete the terms of the guilty plea contract before December 20, 2012, is proper. The court said yes and affirms Hainesworth. The court states "convicted criminals must fulfill the promises they make in connection with plea agreements. See Commonwealth v. Wallace, 582 Pa. 234, 870 A.2d 838, 843 n.6 (Pa. 2005) ("The defendant, on the other hand, accepts this benefit with the implicit promise that he will abide by the terms of the agreement and behave in accordance with the legal punishment imposed by the court."). For these defendants, the Court rules, the legislature must honor the guilty plea agreement/contract its District Attorneys entered and the court approved.
The issue now is does the guilty plea colloquy adequately set forth with particularity the registration requirements that are part of the guilty plea agreement. Martinez may not apply to a cases in which the Megan's Law terms are not stated in the record or were not negotiated. If there is an open plea, these cases may not apply. In the late 1990 and early 2000's in many cases the Commonwealth simply did not negotiate terms of Megan's Law in the guilty plea agreement or state it was negotiated on the record.
Some experienced counsel tried to have the record reflect the plea negotiations to lower criminal charges were engaged to reduce the registration time (from a Tier II - 25 year offense to a Tier I - 10 year offense). In those cases registration terms were reduced in guilty plea agreement by pleas to lower criminal charges. Martinez find such stipulations in the three consolidated cases. In Philadelphia and the local counties, registration notification provisions were always placed in the plea agreement, with a separate signed Megan's Law Registration form, and in colloquy at a sentencing.
In the less sophisticated courts sometimes registration terms were not discussed in either the plea or sentencing hearings. Importantly, counsel must secure both of these transcripts to determine in Martinez applies to the case. Also, Martinez only applies to guilty pleas (not open pleas) for which a defendant was not under any jail, parole, or probation supervision as of December 2012. Call me to discuss your case.