Criminal Defendant Denied Motion to Withdraw His Guilty Plea
In the case of People v. Balfour, defendant Balfour pleaded guilty to aggravated battery with a firearm. The defendant wanted to withdraw his guilty plea on the basis that his criminal defense attorney misrepresented a key agreement that was made by the prosecution; specifically, that the prosecution had agreed to a 7-day furlough as part of the plea arrangement. His counsel also told him he could spend 29 years in prison on an attempted murder charge. However, the state declined to pursue this charge. Also, the maximum sentence for such a charge is 26 years, not 29. His attorney further failed to pursue a self-defense plea to the charges.
The defendant hoped that in raising this appeal, he could get his conviction for aggravated battery discharged and have the case retried, this time with a plea that he was acting in self-defense. The defendant felt as though his attorney had misrepresented the nature of his options. However, the appellate court upheld the conviction on the basis of Supreme Court Rule 402.
Admonitions to the defendant (Supreme Court Rule 402)
Supreme Court Rule 402 stipulates that whenever the defense accepts that there is enough evidence to convict, there must be “substantial compliance” with the following rules:
- The court must first address the defendant personally in court concerning:
- The nature of the charge
- The minimum and maximum sentence
- That the defendant has a right to plead not guilty
- That by pleading guilty, the defendant waives their right to a trial
- There must be a determination that the plea is voluntary – The court is required to ask the defendant if the plea is voluntary. The court is required to determine whether or not any force was used in obtaining the plea or if promises were made in an attempt to secure the plea agreement.
In this case, the defendant argued that his attorney made certain promises that were outside the scope of the plea agreement when he entered his plea of guilty.
What happened in this case?
The defendant was charged with firing a .40 handgun into the abdomen of a victim. The defendant alleged that his attorney had made false promises including a 7-day furlough as part of his plea agreement. However, the court never made any such promises nor spoke of these terms when “admonishing” the defendant (making them aware of the terms of the plea agreement). The defendant pleaded guilty to aggravated battery with a firearm and avoided a charge of attempted murder. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to recommend an 11-year sentence followed by 3 years of supervised release. The court informed him of the sentencing parameters and asked him whether or not the agreement was coerced. When asked whether or not anyone had made promises outside of the scope of the plea agreement, the defendant answered, “No, sir”. On that basis, his appeal was denied.
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