This opinion will
be unpublished and
may not be cited
except as provided by
Minn. Stat. §
480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF
State of Minnesota,
Filed July 11, 2006
Becker County District
File No. K1-04-1448
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street,
St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Joseph Evans, Becker County Attorney, Michael D. Fritz, Assistant
County Attorney (for respondent)
John Stuart, State Public Defender, Richard A. Schmitz, Assistant
Public Defender, Suite
University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis,
MN 55414(for appellant)
Considered and decided by Lansing,
Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Patrick Flores appeals from a conviction
of first-degree driving while impaired, arguing that the district court abused
its discretion by refusing to grant his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The state concedes that the district court’s
basis for denying the withdrawal motion is not supported by the record. In light of this concession and because the
record fails to conclusively establish that the plea was intelligently entered,
we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
A C T S
Responding to two
citizen reports of an erratically driven van on Highway 10, a state highway
patrol officer located the van and observed it crossing over the fog line as it
proceeded along the highway. The trooper
stopped the van and requested that its driver, Patrick Flores, submit to a
preliminary breath test. The test
indicated an alcohol concentration of .24, but Flores
refused to comply with further testing.
The state charged Flores with first-degree
driving while impaired (DWI) and first-degree test refusal. In February 2005 Flores
pleaded guilty to first-degree DWI in exchange for the state’s dismissing the
first-degree test refusal. After the
court accepted his plea but before sentencing, Flores filed a motion to withdraw
his guilty plea on the ground that he had not understood the mandatory
five-year conditional-release term imposed under Minn. Stat. § 169A.276
During the February 2005
plea hearing, the county attorney told Flores that “the maximum penalty that
the [c]ourt can impose for the crime charged here is up to seven years’
imprisonment” and that “as a result of this conviction any future driving under
the influence offenses will be considered a felony.” The district court similarly stated that the
plea would expose Flores to a “maximum of
seven-years’ imprisonment.” But neither
Flores’s attorney, in explaining the plea agreement, nor the court, in
eliciting Flores’s knowledge of the
implications of the guilty plea, mentioned or explained the statutory
conditional-release requirement. In the ensuing
presentence-investigation report, the corrections agent recommended that Flores be advised of the five-year conditional-release
After the plea hearing, Flores’s attorney wrote a letter to
the district court stating that, at the time he entered his plea, Flores had misunderstood how the mandatory conditional
release would affect his sentence. Flores had understood that the conditional release
operated like probation and that, if he violated the terms of his conditional
release, he would only be subject to the remainder of his presumptive
sixty-six-month sentence, not the entire sixty months of the conditional-release
term. Based on this misunderstanding, Flores moved to withdraw his guilty plea.
At the April 20, 2005
plea-withdrawal hearing, the county attorney opposed the motion, stating that
“we went through the rights during the plea.” The county attorney mistakenly asserted that
the five-year conditional-release term was explained to Flores at the plea
hearing and that testimony on the record confirmed that Flores’s attorney had
previously explained the conditional release to Flores. The court took the motion under advisement.
On May 4, 2005, the district
court orally denied Flores’s plea-withdrawal motion and found that Flores’s plea was knowingly and freely entered. The district court stated on the record that
Flores had entered a plea consistent with rule 15 of the Minnesota Rules of
Criminal Procedure after he was advised of the five-year conditional-release
term and that the record contained testimony that Flores’s attorney had
explained the conditional release to Flores.
Based on Flores’s past record that included multiple DWI offenses, the
district court sentenced Flores to sixty-six
months with twenty-two months of supervised release and five years of conditional
Flores appeals from the
court’s denial of his plea withdrawal motion.
The state did not submit a brief.
Instead, it submitted a letter, conceding that the district court’s
reasons for denying the motion to withdraw were not supported by the record and
agreeing that the denial of the plea withdrawal motion should be reversed.
E C I S I O N
We will reverse the district court’s determination on a
motion to withdraw a guilty plea only if the district court abused its
discretion. Barragan v. State, 583 N.W.2d 571, 572 (Minn. 1998).
“In its discretion the court may . . . allow the
defendant to withdraw a plea at any time before sentence if it is fair and just
to do so, giving due consideration to the reasons advanced by the defendant in
support of the motion.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 2.
Flores argues that he is
entitled to withdraw his guilty plea because the district court did not inform
him of the conditional-release term at the time of the plea, and because he was
misinformed of the consequence for a violation of conditional release. Although we disagree with this argument, we
agree with Flores and the state that he is
entitled to withdraw his guilty plea.
The record contradicts the prosecutor’s assertion and the
district court’s finding that Flores was
advised of the five-year conditional-release term at the guilty-plea
hearing. But, in stating that he had
misinformed Flores of the consequence of violating conditional release, defense
counsel necessarily conceded that he had advised Flores
of the conditional-release term itself.
Thus, we cannot agree that Flores’s plea was invalid because Flores lacked knowledge of a direct consequence of the
guilty plea. See Alanis v. State, 583 N.W.2d 573, 578 (Minn.
1998) (holding that guilty plea must be entered with knowledge of direct
consequences of pleading guilty to be intelligently entered); State v. Henthorne, 637 N.W.2d 852, 856
(Minn. App. 2002) (holding that imposition of conditional-release term is
direct consequence of guilty plea), review
denied (Minn. Mar. 27, 2002).
But we need not decide whether the consequence of violating conditional release is a
direct consequence of the guilty plea.
Although ignorance of a direct consequence of the plea would establish a
manifest injustice, Flores need not show a
manifest injustice in order to withdraw his plea. Because he moved to withdraw his plea before
sentencing, Flores is required only to show
that it would be “fair and just” to allow him to withdraw the plea. See Minn.
R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 2 (stating conditions for plea withdrawal before
The district court erroneously believed that Flores had been informed on the record at the time of the
plea that he would be required to serve a conditional-release term. The district court relied on this assumption
and on counsel’s advice to Flores about the conditional-release term when the
court refused to allow Flores to withdraw the
plea. But the facts are now undisputed
that Flores was not advised on the record and that his counsel’s advice was
seriously flawed because it misinformed Flores
of the consequence of violating conditional release.
The supreme court has stated that it would be a “rare case”
that would warrant reversal of a district court’s refusal to allow withdrawal
of the plea before sentencing as “fair and just.” Kim v.
State, 434 N.W.2d 263, 266 (Minn.
1989). But the record demonstrates that,
because of the district court’s incorrect information about the plea-hearing
proceedings, it did not have an opportunity to properly exercise its discretion
when it denied the motion.
The state concedes that Flores
was misinformed of the maximum sentence he might have to serve. Flores understood
from his attorney, the county attorney, and the district court’s statement at
the plea hearing that the statutory maximum sentence was seven years. Under the statute, however, he could be required
to serve, in addition to the sixty-six month sentence imposed, all of the
five-year conditional-release term in prison “[n]otwithstanding the statutory
maximum sentence.” Minn.
Stat. § 169A.276, subd. 1(d) (2004).
This series of errors eliminates the basis for denying the
motion for plea withdrawal and, in these limited circumstances, equates to an
abuse of discretion. Accordingly, we
reverse and remand for further proceedings.