Blanco v. State

In Blanco v. State, 18 S.W.3d 218 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000), after being convicted by a jury, the defendant waived his right to appeal pursuant to an agreement that the prosecution would recommend a sixteen-year sentence. Blanco, 18 S.W.3d at 219. The prosecution did so recommend, and the trial court followed the recommendation. Id. Blanco appealed, and the court of appeals dismissed the appeal, holding Blanco to his promise. Id. The Court affirmed the court of appeals' judgment. Id. In Blanco, appellant entered into a plea agreement with the state that included the waiver of his right to appeal. After the trial court accepted the plea bargain, appellant filed a notice of appeal. He claimed that his waiver was not valid because it was made prior to sentencing. Blanco, 18 S.W.3d at 219. The Court held that because appellant knew the details of the plea bargain and whether any potential errors had occurred prior to entering the waiver, he could not later claim that the waiver was involuntary. Id. Because appellant was fully aware of the likely consequences of the waiver, the state was entitled to insist on the benefits of its bargain even though the waiver had been made prior to the trial court sentencing appellant. Id. at 220. Blanco did not hold that there must be a plea agreement or that one of the parties must receive some benefit before a written waiver of the right to appeal is binding on a defendant. In Blanco, the plea agreement was important because it was essential to determining whether appellant had made a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to appeal. Blanco did not hold that only when a plea agreement exists must appellant seek the permission of the trial court to appeal following a valid waiver. This has never been the law in this jurisdiction. Before Blanco, the Court had held that pre-trial and pre-sentencing waivers were not binding on a defendant as they could not, as a matter of law, be made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. Ex parte Thomas, 545 S.W.2d 469 (Tex. Crim. App. 1977); Ex parte Townsend, 538 S.W.2d 419 (Tex. Crim. App. 1976). The reason for that holding was that the right to appeal had not yet matured, the defendant had no way of knowing with certainty the punishment that would be assessed and could not anticipate the errors that may occur during trial. Id. In Blanco, we found Thomas factually distinguishable because in Thomas the defendant had not bargained for a sentencing recommendation from the prosecution. Blanco, 18 S.W.3d at 219. This fact was significant because it was the validity of the waiver that was of concern in earlier cases, and the existence of an agreement lessened such concerns, at least where the trial court followed the agreement. The agreement put the defendant in a position to be able to knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waive appeal, because he would know what his punishment would be and what errors may have occurred during trial at the time of his waiver.