Boykin and Tahl Rules

In Boykin v. Alabama (1969) 395 U.S. 238, , the United States Supreme Court held that "it was error, plain on the face of the record, for the trial judge to accept the defendant's guilty plea without an affirmative showing that it was intelligent and voluntary."

It concluded that a guilty plea implicated a waiver of several federal constitutional rights, which waiver could not be presumed:

"First, is the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination . . . . Second, is the right to trial by jury. Third, is the right to confront one's accusers. We cannot presume a waiver of these three important federal rights from a silent record." (Id. at p. 243.)

Shortly after the Boykin decision, our Supreme Court was asked to decide whether a defendant's guilty plea was invalid because the waiver of constitutional rights was accomplished "more by inference than by express language." (In re Tahl (1969) 1 Cal.3d 122.)

The court in Tahl interpreted Boykin to require that "each of the three rights mentioned--self-incrimination, confrontation, and jury trial--must be specifically and expressly enumerated for the benefit of and waived by the accused prior to acceptance of his guilty plea." (Id. at p. 132.)

Five years later, the California Supreme Court extended the Boykin/Tahl rule requiring express admonitions and waivers to instances in which the defendant admitted a prior conviction in connection with sentencing. (In re Yurko (1974) 10 Cal.3d 857, 112 Cal. Rptr. 513.)

In addition to advising the defendant of the three constitutional rights and obtaining defendant's knowing and voluntary waiver thereof, the court noted that defendant must also be advised of the penal consequences of his prior-conviction admission. (Id. at pp. 863-864.)

More specific to our case, the Supreme Court has impliedly held that the Boykin/Tahl rule applies where the defendant admits the truth of a sentencing enhancement charged under section 12022.1. (See People v. Adams (1993) 6 Cal.4th 570, holding that defendant's stipulation to certain facts representing some, but not all, of the elements of a § 12022.1 enhancement does not trigger Boykin/Tahl rule that court ensure on record that stipulation was knowing and voluntary.)

The Supreme Court in Adams made a clear distinction between admission of the truth of a section 12022.1 enhancement, on the one hand, and a stipulation of certain factual elements included in the enhancement. (Adams, supra, 6 Cal.4th at pp. 582-583.)

In the latter instance, "while the stipulation must be voluntary and intelligent, it is not mandatory that the court ensure that this appears on the face of the record." (Id. at p. 582.) Since the record here makes clear that defendant admitted the truth of the enhancement, this case does not present an instance described in Adams of a factual stipulation that is exempt from the Boykin/Tahl rule. (Cf. People v. Little (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 766 holding that, contrary to the Attorney General's position that it was factual stipulation, defendant's stipulation that he was under the influence of controlled substance in violation of Health & Saf. Code, § 11550, subd. (a) required a showing that the stipulation was knowing and voluntary under Boykin/Tahl and People v. Howard (1992) 1 Cal.4th 1132.)

In People v. Howard (1992) 1 Cal.4th 1132, the Supreme Court held that "Yurko error involving Boykin/Tahl admonitions should be reviewed under the test used to determine the validity of guilty pleas under the federal Constitution. Under that test, a plea is valid if the record affirmatively shows that it is voluntary and intelligent under the totality of the circumstances. " (Howard, supra, 1 Cal.4th at p. 1175.)

Thus, although the trial court in Howard did not admonish the defendant concerning his privilege against self-incrimination, the Supreme Court nonetheless concluded that defendant's admission of the prior conviction was voluntary and intelligent from a review of the totality of the circumstances. (Id. at p. 1180.)

Recently, the Supreme Court elaborated that in applying the Howard "totality of the circumstances" test, the reviewing court "must go beyond the courtroom colloquy to assess a claim of Yurko error. Now, if the transcript does not reveal complete advisements and waivers, the reviewing court must examine the record of 'the entire proceeding' to assess whether the defendant's admission of the prior conviction was intelligent and voluntary in light of the totality of circumstances. " (People v. Mosby (2004) 33 Cal.4th 353, 361.)

In Boykin, the Supreme Court found reversible error "'because the record did not disclose that the defendant voluntarily and understandingly entered his pleas of guilty.'" (Boykin, supra, 395 U.S. at p. 244 23 L. Ed. 2d at p. 280.) The Boykin court adopted the reasoning from a previous case concerning waiver of the right to counsel, in which it held: "'Presuming waiver from a silent record is impermissible. The record must show, or there must be an allegation and evidence which show, that an accused was offered counsel but intelligently and understandingly rejected the offer.'" (Id. at p. 242 23 L. Ed. 2d at p. 279.)

In Tahl, supra, 1 Cal.3d at page 130, the California Supreme Court addressed "the troublesome question of the type and quantum of affirmative record required to satisfy the newly prescribed constitutional standard" set forth in Boykin. Noting that Boykin did not explicitly require an express, on-the-record waiver of the three trial rights (self-incrimination, confrontation, and jury trial), the court nonetheless imposed this requirement, finding it "a fair inference from the Boykin opinion" and "the only realistic means of assuring that 'the judge . . . leaves a record adequate for any review that may be later sought.'" (Tahl, at p. 132.)

Over two decades later, the California Supreme Court revisited Tahl and held that, when the record fails to reveal an express advisement and waiver of rights, a plea nonetheless will be deemed "valid if the record affirmatively shows that it is voluntary and intelligent under the totality of the circumstances." (People v. Howard (1992) 1 Cal.4th 1132, 1175.) The court noted its decision brought California into conformity with the federal standard for invalidating a plea under Boykin. (Id. at pp. 1177-1178.)