State v. Garvin

In State v. Garvin, 242 Conn. 296, 699 A.2d 921 (1997), the trial court had warned the defendant at the time of his guilty pleas that if he failed to appear for sentencing, the court would not be bound by the agreed on sentence. Id., 300. When the defendant failed to appear and subsequently was apprehended, the court refused to allow him to withdraw his pleas and imposed a sentence greater than that to which he had agreed. Id., 300-301. The condition of the plea agreement, which the defendant had failed to satisfy, was that he appear for sentencing. Id. Garvin, however, does not suggest that a failure to appear is the only condition that may be imposed on the agreement. Id., 314. The Court held that plea agreements involve principles of contract law. In Garvin, the trial court found that the defendant breached his plea agreement by failing to appear in court on a particular date. As a result, the court was no longer bound by the stipulated sentence in that agreement and imposed a greater sentence. The Court held that "under the terms of the defendant's plea agreement, in return for his guilty pleas, he received consideration in the form of the agreed upon sentence. One of the conditions of the agreement, however, was that the defendant appear for sentencing. Fulfillment of this condition was within the defendant's control. He understood at the outset that, if he failed to satisfy this condition, he nonetheless would be bound to the agreement. By holding the defendant to his guilty pleas, while imposing sentences reflecting his failure to appear, the trial court did no more than enforce the terms of the plea agreement." Id. The Court stated that "it is axiomatic that the trial court judge bears an affirmative, nondelegable duty to clarify the terms of a plea agreement. Unless a plea of guilty is made knowingly and voluntarily, it has been obtained in violation of due process and is therefore voidable. . . . When a defendant pleads guilty, he waives important fundamental constitutional rights, including the privilege against self-incrimination, the right to a jury trial, and the right to confront his accusers. . . . These considerations demand the utmost solicitude of which courts are capable in canvassing the matter with the accused to make sure he has a full understanding of what the plea connotes and its consequences.. "We, therefore, require the trial court affirmatively to clarify on the record that the defendant's guilty plea was made intelligently and voluntarily. . . . In order to make a knowing and voluntary choice, the defendant must possess an understanding of the law in relation to the facts, including all relevant information concerning the sentence. . . . The defendant also must be aware of the actual value of any commitments made to him by the court . . . because a realistic assessment of such promises is essential in making an intelligent decision to plead guilty. . . . A determination as to whether a plea has been knowingly and voluntarily entered entails an examination of all of the relevant circumstances." Id., at 309-10. In Garvin, the defendant pleaded guilty under the Alford doctrine pursuant to a plea agreement with the state. State v. Garvin, 43 Conn. App. 142, 144, 682 A.2d 562 (1996), aff'd, 242 Conn. 296, 699 A.2d 921 (1997). The defendant in Garvin failed to appear for sentencing on January 6. Id., at 145. Following his arrest, the defendant appeared before the court. The sentencing court reminded the defendant that it was no longer bound by the agreement and sentenced the defendant to a term of incarceration greater than the fifteen years, execution suspended after eight, that the plea specified if the defendant had appeared. Id. On appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court, the defendant argued that the trial court failed to articulate the circumstances under which he would forfeit his right to withdraw his pleas. State v. Garvin, supra, 242 Conn. at 309. He contended that he did not know that he could not withdraw his plea if he did not appear. Id., at 311. The Court concluded that "the trial court did not say, in so many words, that the defendant would not have a right to withdraw his guilty pleas if he failed to appear for sentencing. If this omission had, in fact, created any misunderstanding about the circumstances under which the defendant would be bound to the plea agreement, the guilty pleas would have been rendered unknowing and, therefore, involuntary." Id. The Court, however, determined that no such misunderstanding existed in that case. Id. It noted that at the sentencing hearing, the defendant sought to withdraw his pleas only on the ground of intoxication and not on grounds relating to the sentence or his rights pertaining thereto. Id., at 311-12. The court concluded that "the defendant in fact harbored no misunderstanding about the terms of the original plea agreement. With notice of the terms of the agreement, the defendant entered his plea knowingly and in compliance with the requirements of due process and fundamental fairness." Id., at 313.