Friday, August 14, 2009

Alford plea stipulation to factual basis does not satisfy Apprendi requirements

Christina Waugh won in State v. Case, No. 98,077 (Kan. August 7, 2009), reversing a 60-month term of postrelease supervision that was based on the district court’s finding that the defendant’s conviction for aggravated endangering of a child was sexually motivated.

The KSC summed up the case as follows:
This case requires us to determine the effect, if any, on the defendant's guilty plea pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 27 L. Ed. 2d 162, 91 S. Ct. 160 (1970), when he "stipulate[d] to the factual basis provided by the State." A panel of the Court of Appeals held that Christopher Case stipulated to the facts, which eliminated the requirement that they be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt before they could be used to increase his sentence beyond the prescribed statutory maximum. See Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000). Because of these stipulated facts, the panel held that the district court was then allowed to find that the crime was sexually motivated. This determination ultimately allowed the district court to increase the length of the postrelease supervision component of Case's sentence from the prescribed 12 months to 60 months. We granted Case's petition for review under K.S.A. 60-2101(b). The State filed no cross-petition.

Case essentially argues that he merely stipulated that the State's facts presented to the court at the plea hearing provided a factual basis for his Alford plea. He did not stipulate or agree that they were true, because this type of admission of guilt is contrary to the fundamental nature of an Alford plea. Case contends that because he did not admit that his crime was sexually motivated, the district court's finding to this effect was improper and resulted in an increased sentence in violation of Apprendi.

We agree with Case.

In concluding that the finding that the offense was "sexually motivated" violated Apprendi, the KSC relied on its previous opinion in State v. Allen, 283 Kan. 372, 153 P.3d 488 (2007) (sentence as "persistent sex offender" based on district court's finding that prior adjudication was sexually motivated violated right to jury trial stated in Apprendi), blogged about here.

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