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Arkansas: Sentencing Court Cannot Order Prison Treatment

The Arkansas Supreme Court has held that a sentencing court lacks authority to order a defendant to complete sex offender treatment in prison.

In 2011, Chad Lee White was convicted of rape and second-degree battery for anally penetrating a neighbor's two-year-old son while babysitting him. The trial court imposed a life sentence and ordered White to complete a sex offender treatment program while incarcerated.

Relying on its earlier decision in Richie v. State, 2009 Ark. 602, 357 S.W.3d 909 (Ark. 2009), the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with White that the sentencing court erred in ordering him to complete sex offender treatment in prison.

The Court observed that in Richie, it held that "pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-303, a circuit court may clearly place conditions on a defendant when the court suspends the imposition of sentence or places the defendant on probation, but that 'there is no similar provision in section 5-4-104(d) that would allow a court to place specific conditions on a sentence of incarceration.'" The Richie decision explained that the Department of Corrections, not the court, had authority "to determine any conditions of incarceration, such as whether the defendant will undergo ... treatment."

As such, the Supreme Court held that the sentencing court's sex offender treatment order was illegal, and remanded the case "for the circuit court to strike the unlawful condition and enter a corrected judgment and commitment order." The Court rejected White's other arguments regarding his conviction and sentence. See: White v. Arkansas, 2012 Ark. 221 (Ark. 2012); 2012 WL 1877322.

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Related legal case

White v. Arkansas