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Rule 11 Of The Federal Rules Of Criminal Procedure: During A Plea The Trial Court Must Inform Defendant Of His Rights


Criminal appeals lawyer, rule 11 proceedings

U.S v. Adams

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

No.13-146-cr

Decided on: September 25, 2014

The Standard Of Review For Plea Agreements Is Plain Error Review

Blog By: Stephen N. Preziosi Esq., Criminal Appeals Lawyer

Issue: Whether the District Court erred when during the Rule 11 proceedings of a plea agreement, it failed to inquire what impact the Defendant’s heart condition and medications would have on his ability to enter a knowing and voluntary plea to the crime.

Summary: Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana. On Appeal, he asserts that his plea of guilty was invalid because the trial court did not inquire under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure about the effect of his heart condition and the medications he was taking on his ability to knowingly and voluntarily to enter a guilty plea. A two-year period elapsed between when Defendant changed his plea and when he was sentenced, he made no objection to the validity of his plea either during that period or at the time of sentencing. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s judgment.

See Also: Fifth Amendment Right To Remain Silent And Cross-Examination Of Defendant

Holding: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the District Court did not err during the Rule 11 proceedings of Defendant’s plea to the crime because Defendant did not demonstrate any reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded guilty, or that the Judge would have accepted his plea, if the District Court had inquired about his medical condition or medications.

To Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that Defendant failed to raise any claim that Rule 11 was violated in the court below and the Court reviewed this claim, asserted for the first time on appeal, for plain error.

To establish plain error in the context of Rule 11, a Defendant must establish that the violation affected substantial rights and that there is a reasonable probability that, but for the error, he would not have entered the plea. The Court of Appeals held they do not need to resolve the question of whether the District Court erred in conducting the Rule 11 proceedings because the Defendant made no such showing.

Facts: Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana. During the Rule 11 proceedings, the District Court confirmed that Defendant was satisfied with his attorney’s representation and advice, had discussed the Plea Agreement thoroughly with his attorney, and had signed the Plea Agreement.

The District Court further confirmed that Defendant was not under the influence of any alcohol or narcotics and had not been induced to plead guilty as a result of any force or threats. The District Court explained the indictment, explained what the Government would have to prove at trial, and asked Defendant whether he understood this information; Defendant replied that he did and was sentenced to 210 months’.

Defendant appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and argues that that the District Court violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. He states that the District Court erred when it failed to inquire during the plea allocution about the possible impact his heart condition and medications had on his ability to enter a knowing, intelligent and voluntary plea. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals stated that they do not need to resolve whether the District Court erred in conducting the Rule 11 proceedings because the Defendant has made no showing that he was under the influecen of any drugs or alcohol during the plea. The Court of Appeals and affirmed.

Legal Analysis: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that in this case, Defendant failed to raise any claim that Rule 11 was violated in the court below so they reviewed this claim asserted for the first time on appeal, for plain error.

Plain error requires a Defendant to demonstrate that 1) there was error, 2) the error was plain, 3) the error prejudicially affected his substantial rights, and 4) the error seriously affected the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings. United States v. Cook, 722 F.3d 477, 481 2d Cir. 2013. 

To show plain error in the context of Rule 11, a Defendant must establish that the violation affected substantial rights and that there is a reasonable probability that, but for the error, he would not have entered the plea. United States v. Yang Chai Tien, 720 F.3d 464, 469 2d Cir. 2013.

In this case, the Second Circuit held that, given the District Court’s knowledge of Defendant’s medical problems, it is possible that the District Judge should have asked Defendant about his heart condition and medications at the plea hearing and that its failure to do so was error. If there is any indication that the Defendant is under the influence of any medication, drug, or intoxicant, it is incumbent upon the District Court to explore on the record Defendant’s ability to understand the nature and consequences of his decision to plead guilty.

To satisfy the plain error standard applicable to this case, however, the Defendant must also establish a reasonable probability that, but for the error, he would not have entered the plea. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that they do not need to resolve whether the District Court erred in conducting the Rule 11 proceedings because the Defendant has made no such showing.

Here, Defendant has not demonstrated any reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded guilty, or that the Judge would not have accepted his plea, if the District Court had inquired about his medical condition or medications. Defendant’s behavior following entry of his guilty plea confirms that he fully intended to plead guilty.

The Second Circuit added that, unlike other cases in which Defendant’s have claimed soon after their pleas that their medical conditions vitiated any conclusion that their pleas were knowing and voluntary, Defendant, in this case, made no effort to have his asserted misunderstanding of the proceedings or the consequences of his plea corrected in the two years prior to sentencing. Defendant neither filed nor sought to file a motion to withdraw his plea during the two years separating the plea proceedings and his sentencing. Only when he did not receive the below-Guidelines sentence he had hoped for did he assert, for the first time in this appeal, that his medications and heart condition may have adversely affected his ability to enter a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary plea. Therefore, the Second Circuit concluded that the Defendant did not demonstrate plain error in connection with his guilty plea.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction.


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