October 17, 2007 By Wallin & Klarich

The California Court of Appeal recently reversed a plea agreement because there was not an adequate factual basis for the defendant’s plea. The issue in The People v. Bobby Lee Willard was whether a general stipulation, without reference to a document in the record which contains factual allegations, satisfies the proper procedure when a negotiated plea is taken.

When a negotiated plea is taken and the trial court asks defense counsel about the factual basis, the court should request that counsel stipulate to a particular document that provides an adequate factual basis.

The defendant pled no contest to a crime and agreed to be sentenced to eight years in prison. In the plea waiver form, the defendant, with his attorney, stipulated that there was a factual basis for his plea and that the court could take facts from “probation reports, police reports or other sources as deemed necessary to establish the factual basis.”

Unfortunately, this stipulation was a general one as it did not reference any document specific to this case. Amazingly, the record was without any probation reports, preliminary hearing transcripts, police reports, pre-sentence reports, or ANY documents which contain facts.

The Court of Appeal noted that the only document available was the complaint itself which only contained the date of the conduct, defendant, victim, and witness names and the language of the statute itself. The Court ruled that this was insufficient to corroborate what defendant already admitted in his plea.

This case shows the importance of hiring competent counsel. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of criminal defense experience and deal with plea agreements everyday. Do not hesitate to give us a call.

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