Hefley v. State, SC 98876

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtMary R. Russell, Judge
Docket NumberNo. SC 98876,SC 98876
Parties Dustin J. HEFLEY, Appellant, v. STATE of Missouri, Respondent.
Decision Date29 June 2021

626 S.W.3d 244

Dustin J. HEFLEY, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Missouri, Respondent.

No. SC 98876

Supreme Court of Missouri, en banc.

Opinion issued June 29, 2021
Rehearing Denied August 31, 2021


Hefley was represented by Samuel Buffaloe of the public defender's office in Columbia, (573) 777-9977.

The state was represented by Kristen S. Johnson of the attorney general's office in Jefferson City, (573) 751-3321.

Mary R. Russell, Judge

Dustin J. Hefley appeals the judgment overruling his Rule 24.035 motion for postconviction relief. Hefley pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated ("DWI"). Plea counsel advised him he would be eligible for long-term treatment under section 217.362,1 and the circuit court sentenced him to nine years in the Department of Corrections ("DOC") pursuant to that provision.

626 S.W.3d 247

After sentencing, it was discovered Hefley was statutorily ineligible for placement in the program.

The judgment overruling the Rule 24.035 motion found plea counsel was not shown to have provided ineffective assistance because Hefley recognized he was not assured placement in the program and, by entering an open plea, he subjected himself to the full range of punishment for the offense. These findings are clearly erroneous. Hefley's ultimate placement in the program was not the basis for his ineffective assistance claim. Rather, Hefley was erroneously counseled that he could be placed in long-term treatment when, as a matter of law, he was ineligible. Upon review of the complete record, this Court holds the mistaken belief held by Hefley regarding his sentencing, which arose from his plea counsel's direct assurance, resulted in his guilty plea. The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.

Background

Hefley was charged with, among other offenses, the class B felony of DWI, stemming from an incident in April 2017. Hefley entered a guilty plea without an agreement as to punishment. During standard questioning from the circuit court, Hefley confirmed that he was pleading guilty without any agreement and that he was satisfied with his plea counsel. The circuit court accepted Hefley's guilty plea, set a date for sentencing, and ordered a sentencing assessment report ("SAR"). The SAR noted Hefley needed approval from the parole board before he could enter treatment but was "eligible for sentencing pursuant to RSMO 217.362 Long Term treatment."

At the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor stated she did not have any additions for or corrections to the SAR.2 The State recommended Hefley receive a 12-year sentence in the DOC. Plea counsel, while acknowledging the seriousness of Hefley's actions, referenced Hefley's health problems and alcohol addiction. Plea counsel stated Hefley "would like to get into a long-term treatment program" and further argued:

If he's fortunate enough that DOC will allow him into this program, upon its completion, he -- he's got some alternatives that he would like to pursue.... [B]ut he recognizes that you could place him, upon completion of that program, the 217 program -- he could be ordered to go into the DWI court program again and sort of parlay what he's learned and what he's accomplished in DOC and continue on with that kind of accomplishments within the community.

Plea counsel then acknowledged Hefley would be interested in other treatment programs "for sort of an aftercare or follow-up to the treatment that he would receive under the 217 program." The circuit court sentenced Hefley to nine years in the DOC, adding, "I'm going to sentence you under the 217 program of long-term treatment. It will be up to the [DOC] parole board whether they allow you to do that or not." During questioning about satisfaction with plea counsel, Hefley agreed he was not promised any certain sentence.

Following sentencing, the Board of Probation and Parole informed the circuit court Hefley was ineligible for long-term treatment under section 217.362. Hefley filed a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his judgment or sentence. Postconviction counsel then filed an amended motion, which alleged Hefley's guilty plea was involuntary, unknowing, and unintelligent

626 S.W.3d 248

because plea counsel misinformed and misled him to believe he was eligible for long-term treatment pursuant to section 217.362, even though he was statutorily ineligible as a habitual offender.

At the postconviction relief evidentiary hearing, plea counsel testified he had advised Hefley on long-term treatment. He further stated Hefley decided to plead guilty based on the representation counsel would argue for long-term treatment. There was no promise Hefley would get into long-term treatment, but Hefley was told affirmatively—albeit erroneously—he was eligible for that program. Plea counsel did not discover Hefley was ineligible, as a matter of law, for long-term treatment until after sentencing.

Hefley testified he would have "[a]bsolutely not" pleaded guilty in an open plea had he known there was no possibility of being accepted into long-term treatment. On cross-examination, he acknowledged that he knew there was no plea deal and that the circuit court could have sentenced him to up to 15 years. He further testified that, based on discussions with his attorney, he believed he was eligible for long-term treatment and there was a substantial likelihood he would be granted placement. Hefley realized the requested remedy—having his plea set aside—could subject him to the full range of punishment of which he would have to serve 85 percent as a habitual offender.

The postconviction relief court overruled Hefley's Rule 24.035 motion, finding Hefley's plea was not involuntary or unintelligent because he "had no reasonable basis to expect that he would, in fact, receive long[-]term treatment." It also found Hefley had not demonstrated prejudice because he knew he could be sentenced anywhere within the range of punishment for a class B felony and no promises were made by plea counsel. Hefley appeals.3

Standard of Review

Appellate review of a judgment on a Rule 24.035 motion is "limited to a determination of whether the findings and conclusions of the trial court are clearly erroneous." Rule 24.035(k). The judgment is "clearly erroneous" when, upon review of the complete record, there is a "definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made." Johnson v. State , 580 S.W.3d 895, 900 (Mo. banc 2019).

Analysis

I. Availability of Long-term Treatment

Hefley argues the judgment denying Rule 24.035 relief was clearly erroneous because plea counsel was ineffective for incorrectly advising him about his eligibility for the long-term drug program ("LTDP"). As an initial matter, however, this Court recognizes Hefley's ineligibility for the LTDP was determined after sentencing. The DOC is charged with the creation of the LTDP to aid chronic nonviolent offenders with substance abuse addictions. Section 217.362.1. After an offender successfully completes the LTDP, the offender may be released on probation, if the court determines probation is appropriate. Section 217.362.3. But the LTDP is not available to those convicted of a "dangerous felony." Section 217.362.1. An "intoxication-related traffic offense" is categorized as a "dangerous felony" if the person is found to be a "habitual offender." Section 556.061(19).4 A "habitual offender" is

626 S.W.3d 249

an individual with "[f]ive or more intoxication-related traffic offenses committed on separate occasions." Section 577.001(11)(a). Because Hefley was charged as a habitual offender and was, in fact, a habitual offender,5 he was not eligible, as a matter of law, for the LTDP.

Section 217.362.2 provides that a judge considering sentencing an offender to the LTDP must notify the DOC in advance of sentencing. The DOC then screens the offender to determine eligibility for the program and whether adequate space exists. Id. Provided the DOC reports the offender is eligible and there is space in the program, then and only then may the court sentence the offender to the LTDP. Id. Appellate courts have repeatedly ruled screening for eligibility to the LTDP after sentencing is not appropriate. State ex rel. Taylor v. Moore , 136 S.W.3d 799, 801 (Mo. banc 2004) ("The trial court erred in sentencing Taylor to LTDP without verifying his eligibility for the program."); Stuart v. State , 565 S.W.3d 766, 777 (Mo. App. 2019) (noting this Court's recognition that section 217.362 "requires the sentencing judge notify the DOC before sentencing someone to long-term treatment" (emphasis in original)); Williams v. State , 563 S.W.3d 750, 756 (Mo. App. 2018), opinion adopted and reinstated after retransfer (Jan. 15, 2019) (" Section 217.362 requires the judge to notify the DOC for screening."). "If the court is advised that an offender is not eligible or that there is no space available, the court shall consider other authorized dispositions." Section 217.362.2. It is error for a court to sentence a defendant to the LTDP prior to ensuring eligibility and space through the DOC.6 Courts cannot ignore statutory procedure.

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2 practice notes
  • Miller v. State, No. SD 36039
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 1, 2021
    ...because, after reviewing the complete record, we have a definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made. See Hefley v. State , 626 S.W.3d 244, 248 (Mo. banc 2021) ; Coday v. State , 179 S.W.3d 343, 346 (Mo. App. 2005). Accordingly, the motion court's order granting relief is rever......
  • Miller v. State, SD36039
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 1, 2021
    ...because, after reviewing the complete record, we have a definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made. See Hefley v. State, 626 S.W.3d 244, 248 (Mo. banc 2021); Coday v. State, 179 S.W.3d 343, 346 (Mo. App. 2005). Accordingly, the motion court's order granting relief is reversed......
2 cases
  • Miller v. State, No. SD 36039
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 1, 2021
    ...because, after reviewing the complete record, we have a definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made. See Hefley v. State , 626 S.W.3d 244, 248 (Mo. banc 2021) ; Coday v. State , 179 S.W.3d 343, 346 (Mo. App. 2005). Accordingly, the motion court's order granting relief is rever......
  • Miller v. State, SD36039
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 1, 2021
    ...because, after reviewing the complete record, we have a definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made. See Hefley v. State, 626 S.W.3d 244, 248 (Mo. banc 2021); Coday v. State, 179 S.W.3d 343, 346 (Mo. App. 2005). Accordingly, the motion court's order granting relief is reversed......

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