Estoppel by Contract in Texas
In Rhodes v. State, 240 S.W.3d 882 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007), Rhodes was serving time in the penitentiary when he escaped. When recaptured, Rhodes was tried and convicted for escape and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.
The trial judge did not expressly order the escape sentence be served consecutively with the sentences Rhodes was serving when he escaped as required by the code of criminal procedure. Id. at 884; see Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 42.08(b) (West Supp. 2014).
Rhodes later committed more felonies, and the State alleged the escape conviction for enhancement purposes. Rhodes objected to the use of the escape conviction for enhancement, asserting the judgment was void because the sentence was ordered to run concurrently with the sentences he was serving when he escaped. Rhodes, 240 S.W.3d at 884.
The record before the court of criminal appeals did not show whether the concurrent serving of the sentence for the escape conviction was pursuant to a plea agreement. Id. at 887.
However, the court of criminal appeals concluded that if it was not pursuant to a plea agreement, then the judgment was not void because it could be reformed through a judgment nunc pro tunc. Id.
And, if there had been a plea agreement that the sentence would run concurrently with Rhodes's prior sentences, Rhodes was estopped from challenging the judgment. Id.
In applying the estoppel-by-contract doctrine, the court stated:
A defendant who has enjoyed the benefits of an agreed judgment prescribing a too-lenient punishment should not be permitted to collaterally attack that judgment on a later date on the basis of the illegal leniency. Here, appellant received a judgment that was illegally lenient by having his sentence run concurrently instead of consecutively. Had he complained about the illegal leniency at the time of trial, or even on direct appeal, the State could likely have obtained a legal judgment that would now be available for enhancement purposes. But instead, appellant quietly enjoyed the benefits of the illegally lenient judgment, challenging it now only because, due to his own subsequent criminal conduct, the judgment can be used to enhance his punishment for a new offense. If he agreed to the concurrent sentencing provision, then through his own conduct he helped procure and benefit from the illegality and he should not now be allowed to complain. Rhodes, 240 S.W.3d at 892.