January 16, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: Juvenile Court Magistrate Has Jurisdiction to Consider Motion to Withdraw Previous Guilty Plea

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of J.D. on Thursday, December 14, 2017.

Juvenile Delinquency—Plea Agreement—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Withdrawal of Plea—Magistrate—Jurisdiction.

J.D. appeared before a magistrate in a delinquency case. He was represented by counsel and signed an “advisement of rights in a juvenile delinquency proceeding” and pleaded guilty to acts that if committed by an adult would have constituted second degree criminal trespass. The magistrate accepted the plea and entered a one-year deferred adjudication. After the prosecution sought restitution and J.D. failed to file an objection within the deadline, the magistrate ordered restitution. Four months later and through new counsel, J.D. moved to withdraw his guilty plea under Crim. P. 32(d) based on ineffective assistance of plea counsel for improperly advising J.D. as to the likely restitution amount and the bankruptcy consequences of restitution, as well as failing to formally withdraw as J.D.’s counsel. The magistrate granted the motion and vacated the plea. On review, the district court judge held that the magistrate lacked jurisdiction to hear J.D.’s motion and vacated the order.

On appeal, J.D. argued that the magistrate had authority to enter the order withdrawing his guilty plea and the district court erred in vacating that order. Because the issue of which judicial officers have authority in particular cases is substantive, not procedural, the Children’s Code prevails over any conflicting provisions in the Colorado Rules for Magistrates. The Children’s Code authorizes the juvenile court to appoint magistrates “to hear any case or matter under the court’s jurisdiction, except where a jury trial has been requested . . . .” The magistrate had jurisdiction to consider J.D.’s Crim. P. 32(d) motion.

The district court’s order was reversed and the magistrate’s order vacating the plea was reinstated. The case was remanded to the district court to address the merits of the People’s petition to review the magistrate’s order under C.R.S. § 19-1-108(5.5).

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Crim. P. 32 Does Not Authorize Withdrawal of Guilty Plea After Completion of Deferred Judgment

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Corrales-Castro on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Criminal Law—Withdrawal of Guilty Plea—Crim.P. 32(d)—Guilty Pleas—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Deferred Judgment.

Osvaldo Corrales-Castro pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and received a one-year deferred judgment. He successfully complied with the terms of the deferred judgment, and in May 2010, the court withdrew his guilty plea and the charge was dismissed with prejudice pursuant to C.R.S. § 18-1.3-102(2), which provides that, upon “full compliance with [the conditions of a deferred judgment],” the guilty plea previously entered “shall be withdrawn and the charge upon which the judgment and sentence of the court was deferred shall be dismissed with prejudice.” In 2013, Corrales-Castro filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea pursuant to Crim. P. 32(d), which authorizes “a motion to withdraw a plea of guilty . . . before sentence is imposed or imposition of sentence is suspended.” The district court denied the motion and the court of appeals reversed, holding that Crim. P. 32(d) authorizes the withdrawal of an already withdrawn plea. The supreme court held that the plain terms of Rule 32(d) require a plea to exist for it to be withdrawn. Therefore, Crim. P. 32(d) does not authorize withdrawal of Corrales-Castro’s plea. Accordingly, the supreme court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Completion of Deferred Judgment Withdraws Guilty Plea as Matter of Law

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Espino-Paez v. People on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Criminal Law—Withdrawal of Guilty Plea—Crim.P. 32(d)—Guilty Pleas—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Deferred Judgment.

Jose Espino-Paez pleaded guilty to the use of a schedule II controlled substance and received a deferred judgment. When he successfully completed the terms of the deferred judgment, his guilty plea was withdrawn and the charge was dismissed with prejudice. In 2012, Espino-Paez filed a motion to withdraw his plea pursuant to Crim. P. 32(d). The district court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed, holding that the district court had no authority to withdraw the plea because it had already been withdrawn. For the reasons discussed in the lead companion case, People v. Corrales-Castro, 2017 CO 60, ___ P.3d ___, announced the same day, the supreme court held that the plain terms of Rule 32(d) require a plea to exist for it to be withdrawn. Therefore, Crim. P. 32(d) does not authorize withdrawal of Espino-Paez’s plea. Accordingly, the supreme court affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea Properly Denied After Completion of Deferred Judgment

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Zafiro-Guillen v. People on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Criminal Law—Withdrawal of Guilty Plea—Crim.P. 32(d)—Guilty Pleas—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Deferred Judgment.

Edgar Zafiro-Guillen pleaded guilty to possession of one gram or less of a schedule II controlled substance in exchange for a two-year deferred judgment. In 2009, upon successful completion of the terms of the deferred judgment, the district court withdrew Zafiro-Guillen’s guilty plea and dismissed the case with prejudice. In 2013, Zafiro-Guillen filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea pursuant to Crim. P. 32(d). The district court denied the motion, holding it lacked jurisdiction. The court of appeals affirmed. For the reasons discussed in the lead companion case, People v. Corrales-Castro, 2017 CO 60, ___ P.3d ___, announced the same day, the supreme court held that the plain terms of Rule 32(d) require a plea to exist for it to be withdrawn. Therefore, Crim. P. 32(d) does not authorize withdrawal of Zafiro-Guillen’s plea. Accordingly, the court affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Guilty Plea Cannot be Withdrawn Once Deferred Judgment Completed

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Roman on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Criminal Law—Withdrawal of Guilty Plea—Crim.P. 32(d)—Guilty Pleas—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Deferred Judgment.

Eloisa Roman pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and received a two-year deferred judgment. She successfully completed her deferred judgment, and her plea was withdrawn and the case was dismissed. In 2013, she filed a motion under Crim. P. 32(d) seeking to withdraw her plea. The trial court denied her motion, and the court of appeals reversed, holding that Rule 32(d) authorized the district court to withdraw Roman’s previously withdrawn plea. For the reasons discussed in the lead companion case, People v. Corrales-Castro, 2017 CO 60, ___ P.3d ___, announced the same day, the supreme court held that the plain terms of Rule 32(d) require a plea to exist for it to be withdrawn. Therefore, Crim. P. 32(d) does not authorize withdrawal of Roman’s plea. Accordingly, the court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Successful Completion of Terms of Deferred Judgment Automatically Withdraws Guilty Plea by Operation of Law

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Flores-Heredia v. People on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Criminal Law—Withdrawal of Guilty Plea—Crim. P. 32(d)—Guilty Pleas—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Deferred Judgment.

Jesus Flores-Heredia pleaded guilty to inducement and conspiracy to sell and possess with intent to sell a schedule II controlled substance, and he received a one-year deferred judgment in 1990. Although he successfully completed the deferred judgment in 1991, no court ever ordered his plea withdrawn or the action against him dismissed pursuant to C.R.S. § 18-1.3-102(2), which provides that, upon “full compliance with [the conditions of a deferred judgment]” the guilty plea previously entered “shall be withdrawn and the charge upon which the judgment and sentence of the court was deferred shall be dismissed with prejudice.” In 2014, Flores-Heredia filed a motion to withdraw his plea pursuant to Crim. P. 32(d). The district court concluded that because no order had been entered withdrawing Flores-Heredia’s plea and dismissing the charge under C.R.S. § 18-1.3-102(2), it would enter such an order. The court then denied the Rule 32(d) motion, concluding that it could not withdraw the plea because the plea had already been withdrawn.

The supreme court held that C.R.S. § 18-1.3-102(2) requires that a plea be deemed withdrawn and the charge dismissed once the deferred judgment is successfully completed, and when an order to this effect is not entered, it occurs by operation of law as mandated by C.R.S. § 18-1.3-102(2). Therefore, Flores-Heredia’s plea was withdrawn by operation of law when he successfully completed the deferred judgment in 1991. Further, for the reasons discussed in the lead companion case, People v. Corrales-Castro, 2017 CO 60, ___ P.3d ___, announced the same day, the supreme court held that the plain terms of Rule 32(d) require a plea to exist for it to be withdrawn. Therefore, Crim. P. 32(d) does not authorize withdrawal of Flores-Heredia’s plea. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Entry of Guilty Plea Equates to “Found Guilty” for School Board Vacancy Statute

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Esquibel v. Board of Education Centennial School District on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

Augustine Esquibel was a director on the Centennial School Board. In 2011, while he was on the board, he pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and felony cocaine possession and received a deferred judgment. Approximately two weeks after he entered his plea, the Board declared his seat vacant based on a director vacancy statute that provides a seat shall be deemed vacant if a director is found guilty of a felony. Esquibel sought a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the Board’s declaration, arguing that he would only be “found guilty of a felony” if he failed to comply with his plea agreement. The district court disagreed and ruled Esquibel was not likely to prevail on the merits. On appeal, the court of appeals analyzed the statutory language and determined that Esquibel was “found guilty” when he entered his guilty plea.

The court of appeals affirmed the district court. Judge Hawthorne dissented; he would have excluded a plea of guilty from the meaning of “found guilty of a felony” in the director vacancy statute.

 

Tenth Circuit: District Court Lacked Jurisdiction to Take Any Action After Sentencing on Guilty Plea

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Spaulding on Tuesday, September 1, 2015.

In May 2011, ATF agents learned that A.J. Aldridge was willing to sell firearms and methamphetamine. An undercover agent arranged to purchase a gun and some meth from Aldridge, and met with Aldridge and his supplier, Robert Blankenship. Blankenship declined to sell the agent a gun because he was concerned the agent was an undercover officer, but he sold some meth. A short time later, the agent again contacted Blankenship and arranged to buy more meth. Blankenship said he would send a relative to deliver the meth. When the agent arrived at the pickup location, Michael Spaulding pulled into the parking lot and the agent completed the transaction. Spaulding, Blankenship, and Aldridge were subsequently arrested and charged with distribution of methamphetamine and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Spaulding entered into a plea deal with the government, agreeing to plead guilty to distribution and to cooperate in the prosecution of his co-defendants. In exchange, the government agreed to recommend a three-level decrease in Spaulding’s offense level and move for a downward departure for substantial assistance, creating an advisory sentencing range of 77 to 96 months.

Spaulding entered his guilty plea and the district court judge requested the preparation of a presentence report (PSR). The PSR computed Spaulding’s guidelines range as 110 to 137 months. At the sentencing hearing in December 2012, the government moved for a downward departure, which the district court nominally granted. The district court denied Spaulding’s motions for downward departure and adjustment for acceptance of responsibility. The district court sentenced Spaulding to 137 months, the top of the guidelines range, because of his extensive criminal history. When the government asked the district court to consider its § 5K1.1 motion, the district court said it had considered it and was not following the government’s recommendation. Spaulding then moved to correct the sentence or to alternatively allow him to withdraw his guilty plea. The district court granted his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, and Spaulding entered into another plea agreement with the government, again with the goal of reaching a guidelines range of 77 to 96 months. At the subsequent sentencing hearing, the district court entered two sentences of 137 months each to run concurrently. Spaulding appealed to the Tenth Circuit, contending the district court erred in rejecting his second plea agreement and refusing to consider the guidelines in sentencing.

On appeal, the Tenth Circuit noticed a jurisdictional defect and requested that the parties brief the issue of whether the district court had jurisdiction under Rule 11(e) to take any action after entering sentence on the first guilty plea. The government argued that the district court had lost jurisdiction after entering Spaulding’s sentence, and that the proper remedy would be to remand to the district court to vacate all orders entered after the December 2012 sentencing hearing. Spaulding argued that since the district court had entered its order allowing him to withdraw his guilty plea nunc pro tunc it had retained jurisdiction over subsequent actions, and also that his motion to withdraw was a collateral attack on his conviction and collateral attacks do not implicate Rule 11(e).

The Tenth Circuit evaluated Rule 11(e) and determined it is jurisdictional. Rule 11(e) advises “After the court imposes sentence, the defendant may not withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, and the plea may be set aside only on direct appeal or collateral attack.” Because the court had imposed its sentence in December 2012, it lacked jurisdiction to allow Spaulding to withdraw his guilty plea. The Tenth Circuit found it was of no consequence that the district court’s sentence was entered orally. The Tenth Circuit addressed Spaulding’s argument that Rule 11(e) was not implicated in this case and disagreed. The Circuit found that although the district court’s order allowing Spaulding to withdraw his guilty plea was issued nunc pro tunc, it did not have jurisdiction to consider the motion because of Rule 11(e)’s bar. The Tenth Circuit found that the appropriate remedy was to remand to the district court to vacate all actions taken after the December 2012 sentence was entered. At that time, Spaulding would be able to file a direct appeal.

The Tenth Circuit remanded to the district court to reinstate its December 2012 sentence and vacate all other orders issued after that date. Judge Gorsuch wrote a thoughtful dissent, noting that some circumstances justify allowing case-by-case evaluation of jurisdiction.

Tenth Circuit: Plaintiff Cannot Bring § 1983 Claim for Damages if it Renders Conviction Invalid

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Havens v. Johnson on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

In January 2007, the Denver Metro Auto Theft Team Task Force planned a sting to arrest Darrell Havens, who had arranged to sell a stolen Audi in an alcove behind a Target store. Havens drove the Audi into the icy alcove, where officers surrounded him in other vehicles and on foot. Several vehicles rammed into the Audi from many directions. At one point, Officer Johnson, who was not in a vehicle, was directly in front of the Audi and fired shots at the driver, leaving him a paraplegic. Havens testified at deposition that he did not have control of the Audi after it was hit the first time and did not make any other maneuvers, but other officers testified the Audi was accelerating toward Officer Johnson and about to pin him against another vehicle when he fired the shots. Officer Johnson testified that he thought he was about to be crushed by the Audi, which was accelerating toward him, and fired into the windshield to stop the driver. Havens was left a quadriplegic after the shooting.

After the incident Havens was charged with multiple crimes. He pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree assault of Johnson, among other charges. At the plea hearing, the court insisted on a record that Havens admitted committing the crimes and was pleading guilty to them. His attorney said he had no recollection of the incident because of the serious injuries he suffered that night. The court then asked Havens if he knew what he was pleading guilty to and he said yes. Havens filed a motion for postconviction relief in state court, arguing that his plea was not knowing, intelligent, or voluntary. The state court denied the motion and the court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court denied certiorari. Havens then filed a § 1983 action against Johnson in federal district court, denying any wrongdoing by Havens and asserting the criminal prosecution was bogus. The district court granted summary judgment to Johnson, finding Havens failed to establish a prima facie case of excessive force and Johnson was entitled to qualified immunity. Johnson argued in the alternative that Havens’ guilty plea supported summary judgment on grounds of issue preclusion, judicial estoppel, and Heck, but the district court denied the other grounds.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on a different ground, finding that Heck required judgment for Johnson and that the Heck defense was properly before the Tenth Circuit because it had been raised and fully briefed below and he raised it again on appeal. Heck was a Supreme Court case where the Court ruled a plaintiff could not bring a § 1983 claim for damages if it rendered a criminal conviction invalid. In this case, Havens’ § 1983 claim asserted no wrongdoing on the part of Havens, instead attributing all fault to the officers. Havens’ version of the events could not sustain a conviction for attempted first-degree assault, and his theory of innocence is barred by Heck.

The Tenth Circuit acknowledged that Havens’ plea was a nolo contedere plea, not a typical guilty plea, but found the Heck doctrine survived by the existence of a valid conviction, not the mechanism by which that conviction was obtained. In a lengthy footnote, Judge Hartz related his concerns with the effect the nolo contendere plea would have on Johnson’s issue preclusion and judicial estoppel arguments, but this footnote was not joined by the rest of the panel.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant Has Right to Withdraw Plea as Void Ab Initio Even When Deferred Judgment Completed

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Corrales-Castro on Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Deferred Judgment—Successful Completion of Sentence—Withdrawal of Guilty Plea—Jurisdiction—Immigration Consequences—Voluntary—Unconstitutional—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.

In 2009, defendant pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and DUI. The district court imposed a one-year deferred judgment and sentence on the criminal impersonation count, and one year of probation on the DUI count. In 2010, defendant successfully completed the conditions of the deferred judgment and probation. The district court withdrew the guilty plea on the criminal impersonation count, dismissed that count, and closed the case. In 2013, defendant filed a Crim.P. 32(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea to criminal impersonation, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the motion, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

On appeal, defendant argued that the district court erred when it held it did not retain jurisdiction to consider his motion. When a guilty plea that is withdrawn after the successful completion of a deferred judgment may nevertheless result in the removal of a defendant from the United States (or the defendant’s inability to re-enter the country), Crim.P. 32(d) authorizes the defendant to challenge the constitutionality of the plea, regardless of its prior withdrawal. Here, defendant claimed that ineffective assistance of counsel rendered his guilty plea involuntary and thus unconstitutional because his defense counsel had failed to inform him that his guilty plea to criminal impersonation could have negative federal immigration consequences, even if he successfully completed the conditions of the deferred judgment. Furthermore, under the circumstances presented here, a Crim.P. 32(d) motion is not subject to the time limits of CRS § 16-5-402(1), and defendant’s motion is not time barred by that statute. Accordingly, the district court retained jurisdiction to decide defendant’s motion, the order denying defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea under Crim.P. 32(d) was reversed, and the case was remanded for a determination of defendant’s Crim.P. 32(d) motion.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: District Court Free to Resentence Remaining Counts De Novo When One Count Set Aside or Vacated

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Catrell on Monday, December 22, 2014.

Ronald Catrell was indicted in Kansas on several fraud-related counts with an understanding that he would plead guilty. However, he fled after posting bond. When he was returned to Kansas the following year, he entered a different, binding plea agreement, agreeing to a sentence of 120 months. Before sentencing, however, the district court allowed Catrell to withdraw his guilty plea. The government then procured an indictment with over 12 new criminal counts. Catrell and the government entered into a new binding plea agreement, where Catrell would plead guilty to the same four crimes as before and receive 132 months in prison. To reach the 132 months, the parties agreed to a 24-month sentence for aggravated identity theft and a combined 108-month sentence for the other three counts to run consecutively. Defendant subsequently pled guilty and affirmed approximately 12 times that he was doing so of his own free will. The court accepted the agreement and sentenced Defendant to 132 months, but crafted the sentence differently — 54 months for aggravated identity theft and 78 months for the other three charges. Defendant appealed his aggravated identity theft charge and asserted prosecutorial vindictiveness for withdrawing his initially-agreed-upon plea for 120 months.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed Defendant’s assertion of prosecutorial vindictiveness, and found none. The Tenth Circuit noted that binding precedent foreclosed Defendant’s arguments on review, because as long as the accused is free to take or leave the government’s plea offer, there is no element of punishment or revenge.

Turning to the sentencing issue, the Tenth Circuit found that the district court had sentenced Defendant illegally by imposing a 54-month sentence for aggravated identity theft. The pertinent statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1028A, mandates a two-year sentence for each incident of aggravated identity theft. The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded for correction of the illegal sentence. However, it rejected Defendant’s contention that the district court could not amend the rest of Defendant’s sentence. The Tenth Circuit’s “sentencing package doctrine” counsels that when one count of a sentence is set aside or vacated, a district court is free to reconsider sentencing de novo.

The Tenth Circuit remanded for resentencing with specific instructions for the district court to feel free to amend the entire sentence to retain the original 132-month agreement.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Withdrawn Plea Constitutes “Conviction” of Felony Under Federal Immigration Law

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Espino-Paez on Thursday, September 25, 2014.

Guilty Plea—Deferred Judgment—Federal Immigration Law—Residency—Crim.P. 32(d) and 35(c)—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Jurisdiction.

Defendant, a Mexican citizen, pleaded guilty to the use of a schedule II controlled substance. He received a deferred judgment for one year on the condition that he successfully complete drug and alcohol treatment. After he completed the treatment, the district court permitted him to withdraw the plea, and the court dismissed the case with prejudice. Defendant thereafter sought permanent residency in the United States, which was denied because a withdrawn plea in a Colorado state court constitutes “conviction” of a felony under federal immigration law. Defendant filed a post-conviction motion seeking to withdraw his plea pursuant to Crim.P. 35(c) and Crim.P. 32(d) based on ineffective assistance of counsel, which was denied.

On appeal, defendant contended that the district court erred in summarily denying his Crim.P. 35(c) motion. However, a deferred judgment is not reviewable under Crim.P. 35(c) unless it is revoked and a judgment is entered.

Defendant further contended that the district court abused its discretion in failing to consider his Crim.P. 32(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea, and requested that the case be remanded for that purpose. Because defendant had already successfully completed his deferred judgment, the district court did not have jurisdiction to rule on defendant’s motion. The appeal challenging the order denying relief was dismissed and the order denying relief was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.