State v. Yates

In State v. Yates, 169 Vt. 20, 25, 726 A.2d 483 (1999), the defendant had pled guilty to aggravated domestic assault and simple assault. The charges arose out of an incident involving his then-wife and a friend of hers. The charge of aggravated domestic assault was based on acts committed by defendant against his then-wife, and the simple assault charge was based on acts committed against her friend. At a status conference, the court accepted the pleas, entered judgment, and sentenced defendant according to the agreement. Approximately six months later, defendant moved to withdraw his guilty plea to the aggravated domestic assault charge. At the status conference where the pleas were accepted, the court failed to make any inquiry into the facts concerning the altercation with defendant's then-wife, instead soliciting facts which concerned only the altercation with her friend. Yates, 169 Vt. at 23-24, 726 A.2d at 486. While recognizing that a court may obtain facts about the case from sources other than the defendant, such as prosecutor and presentence reports, the Court held that "ultimately, the court's inquiry into the accuracy of the plea must be addressed personally to the defendant." Id. at 24, 726 A.2d at 486. Yates reiterated the proposition that Rule 11(f) requires "the defendant admit to and possess an understanding of the facts as they relate to the law for all elements of the charge or charges to which the defendant has pleaded." Id. "The accuracy of the factual basis goes to the defendant's understanding of the relationship between the law and the facts, which ultimately goes to voluntariness. The defendant's understanding cannot be probed except through personal interrogation, which then appears in the record of the proceedings." Id. at 26-27, 726 A.2d at 487-88. The Court held the court's failure to establish any factual basis for the aggravated domestic assault charge was a total violation of Rule 11(f). Id. at 24, 726 A.2d at 486.