August 21, 2019

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 Although he successfully completed the deferred judgment in 1991, no court ever ordered his plea withdrawn or the action against him dismissed pursuant to C.R.S. § 18-1.3-102(2), which provides that, upon “full compliance with [the conditions of a deferred judgment]” the guilty plea previously entered “shall be withdrawn and the charge upon which the judgment and sentence of the court was deferred shall be dismissed with prejudice.”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then denied the Rule 32(d) motion, concluding that it could not withdraw the plea because the plea had already been withdrawn.

The supreme court held that C.R.S. § 18-1.3-102(2) requires that a plea be deemed withdrawn and the charge dismissed once the deferred judgment is successfully completed, and when an order to this effect is not entered, it occurs by operation of law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 Therefore, Flores-Heredia’s plea was withdrawn by operation of law when he successfully completed the deferred judgment in 1991.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announced the same day, the supreme court held that the plain terms of Rule 32(d) require a plea to exist for it to be withdrawn.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.

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