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Knowing And Voluntary Plea: Judge’s Unfulfilled Promise Induced Defendant To Plead Guilty Rendering Guilty Plea Unknowing And Involuntary


criminal appeals lawyer involuntary plea

People v. Monroe

21 N.Y.3d 875

New York Court of Appeals

Decided on: April 2, 2013

Judge’s Unfulfilled Promise Rendered Plea Involuntary 

Summary: Defendant pleaded guilty to two class B felonies and was sentenced to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of 4 ½ to 9 years and began serving the sentences. He was then accused of participating in a trafficking conspiracy and pled guilty to a single count in exchange for an indeterminate sentence of 6 to 12 years in prison to run nunc pro tunc; the 6 to 12 will begin on the same day that the 4 ½ to 9 began. The judge then told the Defendant that his earliest release date would only be an additional year and a half in effect before parole. Following enactment of the Drug Law Reform Act of 2009(DLRA), Defendant sought relief from his sentences, and the DLRA resentencing court granted his application, reducing both concurrent 4 ½ to 9 year indeterminate sentences to concurrent determinate sentences of three years.

     Defendant moved pursuant to CPL article 440 for an order vacating his plea. He argues that his plea was unknowing because he was induced by a promise that the agreed to 6 to 12 year indeterminate sentence to be imposed would extend his earliest possible parole date by only a year and a half, as specifically assured by the Judge at the plea hearing.

Supreme Court denied Defendant’s motion and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal and held that it simply cannot be said on the record that Defendant would have pleaded guilty absent this assurance. When a guilty plea has been induced by an unfulfilled promise either the plea must be vacated or the promise honored, but that the choice rests in the discretion of the sentencing court. The Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division’s order the remitted the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

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Issue: Whether a guilty plea is unknowing or involuntary when it has been induced by an unfulfilled promise where the Judge’s specific representation to Defendant was that he would extend his minimum incarceratory term by a year and a half only and after resentencing the minimum additional terms of incarceration doubled to three years.

Holding: The Court of Appeals held that when a guilty plea has been induced by an unfulfilled promise either the plea must be vacated or the promise honored, but that the choice is in the discretion of the sentencing court.

Facts: Defendant pleaded guilty to two class B felonies and was sentenced to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of 4 ½ to 9 years for each crime to run concurrently and began serving the sentences. He was then accused of participating in a trafficking conspiracy and pled guilty to a single count in exchange for an indeterminate sentence of 6 to 12 years in prison to run nunc pro tunc; the 6-12 will begin on the same day the 4 ½ to 9 began. The judge then told the Defendant that his earliest release date would only be an additional year and a half in effect before parole. Following enactment of the Drug Law Reform Act of 2009(DLRA), Defendant sought relief from his sentences and the DLRA resentencing court granted his application, reducing both concurrent 4 ½ to 9 year indeterminate sentences to concurrent determinate sentences of three years. Defendant moved pursuant to CPL article 440 for an order vacating his plea to conspiracy and the resulting judgment of conviction and sentence, and resentencing him to a reduced indeterminate term of imprisonment.

     Defendant argues that his plea was unknowing because he was induced by a promise that the agreed to 6 to 12 year indeterminate sentence to be imposed would extend his earliest possible parole date by only a year and a half, as specifically assured by the Judge at the plea hearing. After resentencing on the class B felonies, the gap between the minimum terms of incarceration doubled from the year and a half that he had counted on when he pleaded guilty to three years. Supreme Court denied Defendant’s motion and the Appellate Division affirmed.

The Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal and held that it simply cannot be said on the record that Defendant would have pleaded guilty absent this assurance. When a guilty plea has been induced by an unfulfilled promise either the plea must be vacated or the promise honored, but that the choice rests in the discretion of the sentencing court. The Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division’s order the remitted the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Legal Analysis: The Court of Appeals held that the Defendant’s guilty plea is unknowing or involuntary. Defendant expected to be released from prison at his earliest parole eligibility date. He had received no disciplinary tickets resulting in lost good time; he was successfully progressing through correctional programming as well as scoring high marks in his pre-general equivalency diploma (GED) classes; his teachers praised him for his interest, attitude and work habits.

     Defendant sought relief from his sentences for the class B felonies to the DLRA resentencing court (Drug Law Reform Act of 2009). The court granted his DLRA application, reducing both concurrent 4 1/2 –to 9-year indeterminate sentences to concurrent determinate sentences of three years, to be followed by two years of post release supervision. Defendant moved pursuant to CPL article 440 for an order vacating his plea to conspiracy and the resulting judgment of conviction and sentence, and resentencing him to a reduced indeterminate term of imprisonment.

The Defendant argued that his plea was unknowing because he was induced by a promise that the agreed 6-to-12-year indeterminate sentence to be imposed would extend his earliest possible parole date by only a year and a half. In addition, after re-sentencing, the minimum terms of incarceration doubled from the year and a half that he had counted on when he pleaded guilty to three years. The trial court denied Defendants motion and held that it did not render as unknowing or involuntary. The Appellate Division affirmed and the Court of Appeals granted the Defendant leave to appeal

     The Defendant’s plea to conspiracy count was induced by the Judge’s specific representation to him that he would thereby extend his minimum incarceratory term by a year and a half only. The Court of Appeals held, it cannot be said on the record that Defendant, who was clearly working toward achieving the earliest date possible, would have pleaded guilty absent this assurance. Generally, when a guilty plea has been induced by an unfulfilled promise either the plea must be vacated or the promise must be honored, but that the choice rests in the discretion of the sentencing court, People v. McConnell, 49 NY2d 340, 346 1980. The Court of Appeals reversed the order and remitted the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.


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