June 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant Not Entitled to Withdraw Guilty Plea to Correct Purportedly Illegal Sentence

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Fritz on Thursday, August 28, 2014.

Illegal Sentence—Plea Bargain—Moot.

Fritz admitted to sexually abusing his adopted daughter, J.F., more than 1,000 times over a three-year period. He pleaded guilty to aggravated incest, and the prosecution dropped the remaining charges. Fritz complied with the plea agreement until 2008, when he left Colorado without permission and travelled to the Philippines. The prosecution filed a complaint seeking to revoke his probation.

Fritz then filed a Crim.P. 35(a) motion to withdraw his guilty plea and a Crim.P. 35(c) motion to vacate an allegedly illegal sentence and conviction; both motions were denied by the court. Two months after Fritz filed a notice of appeal, he pleaded guilty to the probation violation. Both parties stipulated to a sentence of thirteen years in prison subject to discretionary parole. The trial court sentenced Fritz according to the new plea agreement.

On appeal, Fritz contended that he obtained an illegal sentence as part of his original plea bargain, thus entitling him to withdraw his guilty plea. However, Fritz was not materially induced to enter into a plea by the mandatory parole provision. If his original sentence was illegal, the only remedy is imposition of a new legal sentence. This appeal is moot because Fritz pleaded guilty to the probation violation and the trial court imposed a new legal sentence, thereby superseding the original sentence. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.

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

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