State v. Reid
In State v. Reid, 277 Conn. 764, 894 A.2d 963, 976 (Conn. 2006), the Supreme Court of Connecticut was asked to decide whether Reid, when he entered his guilty plea, was adequately apprised of the nature of the criminal charge to which he pled guilty. 894 A.2d at 963.
The issue arose several years after Reid pled guilty to assault in the second degree, when Reid filed a motion to withdraw that plea. Id. at 968-69.
The impetus for the motion was that Reid was facing adverse collateral consequences of his conviction due to deportation proceedings filed against him by the federal government. Id. at 973.
That, when the state's attorney requested that he enter his plea to a 'substituted charge of assault in the second degree' followed by a citation to 53a-61, rather than 53a-60, an ambiguity was created and thus he did not know whether this plea was to assault in the second or third degree. This ambiguity, he contends, was exacerbated by the trial court's failure to advise him of the elements of the charge to which he was pleading. Id. at 975.
Prior to pleading guilty, Reid told the judge that his attorney had reviewed the law with him "as it relates to assault in the second degree" and that he had no questions for his counsel "either about the law as it applies to this case, or the facts of his case." Id. at 975-76.
The plea judge in Reid did not explain the elements of the crime to the defendant or ask Reid's counsel if he had done so.
The Reid Court nevertheless held:
Turning to the case presently before the court, we conclude that the totality of the circumstances surrounding the defendant's plea clearly indicates that the defendant understood that he was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, assault in the second degree. The short form substitute information to which he pleaded charged him with "assault second degree" in violation of 53a-60. Thus, any discussions that the defendant had with his attorney prior to the plea hearing necessarily would have been based upon this charge in the short form information. Indeed, the plea hearing began with the defense counsel representing to the court that he had explained "the offer that the court extended" to the defendant based upon that charge. During that hearing, the defendant confirmed to the court that his attorney had reviewed the law with him "as it relates to assault in the second degree." Moreover, despite her misstatement with respect to the statute's numerical designation, the assistant state's attorney referred to the substituted charge of assault in the second degree, and, on three separate occasions during the plea hearing, the trial court referred to assault in the second degree. When the trial court recited the maximum penalty for the charge, the penalty cited was the five year penalty for assault in the second degree, not the one year penalty for assault in the third degree. In fact, the defendant has failed to point to any evidence that would indicate that he knew that the statutory provision cited by the state's attorney referred to assault in the third degree rather than assault in the second degree. Thus, we conclude that the defendant has not demonstrated any ambiguity on the record as to the charge to which he pleaded guilty.
Moreover, "our courts have stopped short of adopting a per se rule that notice of the true nature of the charge always requires the court to give a description of every element of the offense charged." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Silva, 65 Conn. App. 234, 245, 783 A.2d 7, cert. denied, 258 Conn. 929, 783 A.2d 1031 (2004). Rather, we have held that, "under Henderson v. Morgan, 426 U.S. 637 (1976), even without an express statement by the court of the elements of the crimes charged, it is appropriate to presume that in most cases defense counsel routinely explain the nature of the offense in sufficient detail to give the accused notice of what he is being asked to admit. See also Marshall v. Lonberger, supra, 459 U.S. 422 at 436-37, 74 L. Ed. 2d 646 (same); Oppel v. Meachum, 851 F.2d 34, 38(2d Cir.) (Under Henderson v. Morgan supra, 647 it is normally presumed that the defendant is informed by his attorney of the charges against him and the elements of those charges), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 911 (1988). Thus, unless a record contains some positive suggestion that the defendant's attorney had not informed the defendant of the elements of the crimes to which he was pleading guilty, the normal presumption applies." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Lopez, 269 Conn. 799, 802, 850 A.2d 143 (2004); accord Bradshaw v. Stumpf, 545 U.S. 175 (2005) ("We have never held that the judge must himself explain the elements of each charge to the defendant on the record. Rather, the constitutional prerequisites of a valid plea may be satisfied where the record accurately reflects that the nature of the charge and the elements of the crime were explained to the defendant by his own, competent counsel. . . . Where a defendant is represented by competent counsel, the court usually may rely on that counsel's assurance that the defendant has been properly informed of the nature and elements of the charge to which he is pleading guilty."
The defendant has not pointed to anything in the record containing a positive suggestion that his attorney failed to inform him of the elements of the crime to which he was pleading. In fact, the record shows that the defendant responded affirmatively to the trial court's inquiries as to whether defense counsel "went over the law with him as it relates to assault in the second degree" and whether the defendant had had enough time to discuss his plea with counsel. The defendant also affirmed, in response to the court's inquiry, that he had no questions for defense counsel "either about the law as it applies to his case, or the facts of his case." A court "may properly rely on . . . the responses to the trial court's plea canvass . . . ." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Casado, 42 Conn. App. 371, 377, 680 A.2d 981, cert. denied, 239 Conn. 920, 682 A.2d 1006 (1996), citing State v. Williams, 203 Conn. 159, 170, 523 A.2d 1284 (1987). Accordingly, we conclude that, based on the record in the present case, it is appropriate to presume that defense counsel explained the nature of the offense in sufficient detail to give the defendant notice of what he was being asked to admit. (Id. at 975-76.)