This case indicates why it is so incredibly important to ensure that everything makes it into the record. Otherwise, there could be a basis for either no appeal or, just the opposite – a reversal on appeal.
Case #632 #104692
People v. Beniquez
Ulster County-Williams Key Issue: Guilty pleas must be unequivocal and must be plainly stated within the record REVERSED
The defendant entered into a plea deal with the District Attorney’s office whereby he would plead “guilty to a single count of attempted burglary in the second degree in satisfaction of a two-count indictment” and, in exchange, he “was to receive a sentence of two years in prison, followed by three years of post-release supervision.”
Okay, so what was the catch? Here it is: “County Court advised [the] defendant that, among other things, if he were charged with any new offense prior to the sentencing date, the court would no longer be bound by the” plea agreement. So, what does the defendant do? You guessed it! “While awaiting sentencing, [the defendant] was arrested and charged with two drug possession counts.”
County Court was chagrined by this behavior and did what it said it would do: it gave the defendant “an enhanced prison term of six years”.
And the defendant appealed.
The Third Department found that “as the record before us does not indicate that [the] defendant ever actually entered a guilty plea pursuant to the plea agreement, we reverse.”
So, what the heck happened here? It seems that the “defendant never actually admitted his guilt in any manner and did not enter a valid plea.” Furthermore, “the plea allocution simply does not reflect that [the] defendant understood the nature of the charge against him”, nor does it reflect that the defendant “voluntarily entered into such [a] plea.”
And while neither the defendant nor his attorney moved to withdraw the defendant’s plea or vacate the judgment of conviction, the Third Department found it to reverse the judgment as being in the interest of justice.
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