People of The State of Colo. v. NEUHAUS, No. 07CA0896.

Docket NºNo. 07CA0896.
Citation240 P.3d 391
Case DateNovember 25, 2009
CourtCourt of Appeals of Colorado

240 P.3d 391

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Shane Aaron NEUHAUS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 07CA0896.

Colorado Court of Appeals,Div. II.

Nov. 25, 2009.


240 P.3d 392

John W. Suthers, Attorney General, Rebecca A. Adams, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Lynn Noesner, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant.

Opinion by Judge BERNARD.

This case involves a conditional guilty plea that allowed a defendant to preserve the right to appeal a trial court order denying a motion to suppress. We conclude that the issue whether conditional guilty pleas should be authorized has not been definitively answered by our supreme court.

As a result, we must decide, for the purposes of resolving this case, whether they are authorized. To resolve this issue, we first analyze the status of conditional guilty pleas throughout the United States. Our survey establishes that many states have statutes or rules authorizing conditional guilty pleas.

Because Colorado does not have a statute or court rule authorizing conditional guilty pleas, we must, therefore, turn to an analysis of existing case law concerning guilty pleas to determine their nature. This analysis leads us to conclude that, as a matter of legal doctrine, guilty pleas in Colorado are designed to waive the right to attack most pretrial decisions, including orders denying defendants' motions to suppress. Regarding guilty pleas from this perspective, we conclude that Colorado law does not presently provide for conditional guilty pleas. Therefore, we dismiss this appeal.

I. Background

Defendant, Shane Aaron Neuhaus, was charged with two counts of menacing under

240 P.3d 393

section 18-3-206(1)(a) & (b), C.R.S., 2009, one count of possession of a weapon by a previous offender under section 18-12-108(1), (2)(c), C.R.S.2009, and three counts of possession of a weapon by a previous juvenile offender under section 18-12-108(3), C.R.S.2009. These charges were based upon items found in a warrantless search of a car that defendant had been driving. The search turned up a rifle, a shotgun, and ammunition for both weapons.

Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress evidence of the weapons and ammunition at trial. The trial court denied it.

The trial court then granted defendant's motion to sever the menacing counts, and presided over a jury trial on them. Defendant was acquitted.

The parties then entered into a plea disposition to resolve the remaining counts. Defendant pled guilty to one count of possession of a weapon by a previous offender, and the prosecution dismissed the rest. The court approved the parties' stipulation that, as a result of this plea, defendant would be sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment to be served consecutively to the sentence in another case, plus one year of parole.

The disposition included the express condition that defendant was permitted to appeal the trial court's ruling on his suppression motion. The parties stated that the results of the appeal would be “dispositive” of the charges, meaning that, if defendant were successful, the subsequent suppression of the evidence would deprive the prosecution of sufficient evidence to go forward with the case. If this court were to reverse the trial court's order denying the suppression motion, the prosecution would allow defendant to withdraw his guilty plea and would dismiss the charges.

Defendant appealed to this court. After the completion of briefing, we ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs. As pertinent to our resolution of this appeal, we asked (1) whether the plea agreement was a conditional plea; and (2) if so, whether we have authority to review the suppression issue.

II. Colorado Cases Discussing Conditional Guilty Pleas

Plea dispositions serve a salutary purpose in our criminal justice system. They

lead[ ] to prompt and largely final disposition of most criminal cases; ... avoid[ ] much of the corrosive impact of enforced idleness during pre-trial confinement for those who are denied release pending trial; ... protect[ ] the public from those accused persons who are prone to continue criminal conduct even while on pretrial release; and, by shortening the time between charge and disposition, [they] enhance[ ] whatever may be the rehabilitative prospects of the guilty when they are ultimately imprisoned.

Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 261, 92 S.Ct. 495, 30 L.Ed.2d 427 (1971).

The general rule is that a valid guilty plea waives all nonjurisdictional objections, including allegations that constitutional rights have been violated. A defendant has no right to raise a constitutional claim after pleading guilty unless such a claim relates directly to the guilty plea's adequacy. See People v. Isham, 923 P.2d 190, 195 (Colo.App.1995).

One exception to this general rule that has been adopted by other jurisdictions is the conditional guilty plea. One form of conditional guilty plea “allows the defendant to plead guilty, thus avoiding a trial which would serve no purpose, while expressly preserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress evidence on constitutional grounds.” Note, Conditional Guilty Pleas, 93 Harv. L.Rev. 564, 566 (1980).

Several Colorado cases have discussed conditional guilty pleas. In People v. Pharr, 696 P.2d 235, 236 (Colo.1984), a defendant entered a conditional guilty plea that purported to preserve the right to appeal the constitutionality of the statute establishing the crime with which he was charged. Our supreme court “specifically disapprove[d]” of this procedure because it was not “recognized by either rule or statute.” Id. Subsequently, in Waits v. People, 724 P.2d 1329, 1337 (Colo.1986), the supreme court stated that a guilty plea precludes a defendant from attacking

240 P.3d 394

the plea on the ground that the seizure of evidence was the product of an illegal search “unless a right to challenge the plea is preserved by statute.” Id.

In People v. Bachofer, 85 P.3d 615, 617 (Colo.App.2003), a division of this court concluded:

We perceive no prohibition of the [conditional guilty plea] agreement used here and conclude that in the interest of judicial economy, there is no justification for barring a stipulation whereby a defendant pleads guilty to a charge on the condition that he or she may nevertheless seek review of an adverse pretrial ruling that directly affects the charge.

Two years after Bachofer was decided, our supreme court referred to it in People v. McMurtry, 122 P.3d 237, 242-43 (Colo.2005). The court cited Pharr, and then noted that it had “never explicitly endorsed” the use of such pleas. Id. at 243. However, because the plea at issue in McMurtry was not a conditional plea, the court stated that it would “leave to another day the issue of whether the conditional plea is an acceptable practice in Colorado.” Id.

This case presents us, as a division of the Court of Appeals, with that day. We turn to a survey of other jurisdictions to see how they treat conditional guilty pleas.

III. Conditional Guilty Pleas Throughout the United States

Debate over the propriety of conditional guilty pleas began in earnest in the early 1970s. Federal circuits eventually fractured over whether such pleas were authorized by law. The Second and Third Circuits approved of them. United States v. Moskow, 588 F.2d 882, 888-90 (3d Cir.1978); United States v. Burke, 517 F.2d 377, 378-79 (2d Cir.1975); United States ex. rel. Rogers v. Warden, 381 F.2d 209, 214 (2d Cir.1967). The Eighth and District of Columbia Circuits praised the concept, although the Eighth Circuit thought its adoption would best be accomplished by a statute, a court rule, or a decision of the Supreme Court. United States v. Clark, 459 F.2d 977, 978 (8th Cir.1972); United States v. Dorsey, 449 F.2d 1104, 1108 n. 18 (D.C.Cir.1971). The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits found conditional guilty pleas to be improper. Benson, 579 F.2d at 509-11; United States v. Nooner, 565 F.2d 633, 634 (10th Cir.1977); United States v. Brown, 499 F.2d 829, 832 (7th Cir.1974); United States v. Sepe, 486 F.2d 1044, 1045 (5th Cir.1973); United States v. Matthews, 472 F.2d 1173, 1174 (4th Cir.1973); Cox, 464 F.2d at 941-42. The First Circuit reserved judgment. United States v. Warwar, 478 F.2d 1183, 1185 n. 1 (1st Cir.1973).

This split was resolved by the creation of Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(a)(2) in 1983. Although the Committee Note to this 1983 amendment indicate that a few jurisdictions, such as California, New York, and Wisconsin, had statutes or court rules authorizing conditional pleas before the amendment's passage, our research reveals that, as of now, at least thirty-two jurisdictions, including federal courts and the United States military, have approved of conditional guilty pleas.

Presently, conditional guilty pleas are authorized in three different ways. Ten jurisdictions have statutes. See Cal.Penal Code §§ 1237.5 & 1538.5(m); Conn. Gen.Stat. §§ 54-94a & 61-6(a)(2)(ii); Mont.Code Ann. § 46-12-204(3); Nev.Rev.Stat. § 174.035(3); N.Y.Crim. Proc. Law § 710.70; N.C. Gen.Stat. § 15A-979(b); Ore.Rev.Stat. § 135.335(3); Tex.Code Crim. Proc. Ann. arts. 44.02 & 11(i) & Tex.R.App. P. 25.2(A); Va.Code Ann. § 19.2-254; Wis. Stat. § 971.31(10).

Sixteen jurisdictions authorized conditional guilty pleas for the first time by court rules. See Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(a)(2); Rule for Courts-Martial 910(a)(2); Ark. R.Crim. P. 24.3(b); D.C.Super. Ct. R.Crim. P. 11(a)(2); Fla. R.App. P. 9.140(b)(2)(A)(i); Haw. R. Penal. P. 11(a)(2); Idaho R.Crim. P. 11(a)(2); Ky. R.Crim. P. 8.09; Me. R.Crim. P. 11(a)(2); N.J. R.Crim. P. 3:9-3(f); N.D. R.Crim. P. 11(a)(2); Ohio R.Crim. P. 12(I); Tenn. R.Crim. P. 37(b)(2)(A); Vt. R.Crim. P. 11(a)(2); W. Va. R.Crim. P. 11(a)(2); Wyo. R.Crim. P. 11(a)(2).

Six jurisdictions adopted conditional guilty pleas by judicial decision. Four of...

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7 practice notes
  • People v. Hoffman, No. 08CA1008.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • June 3, 2010
    ...of judicial economy. After the completion of briefing for this appeal, a different division of this court concluded in People v. Neuhaus, 240 P.3d 391, 394–95 (Colo.App.2009), that in the absence of a statute or rule authorizing conditional plea agreements, they are not permitted under Colo......
  • State v. Rice, No. 27210.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • January 16, 2013
    ...all federal courts, military courts, and the District of Columbia permit conditional guilty pleas in some manner. See People v. Neuhaus, 240 P.3d 391, 394–96 (Colo.Ct.App.2009) (providing a general review of the varying approaches as to conditional guilty pleas). Because South Carolina perm......
  • Neuhaus v. People, No. 10SC27.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • November 19, 2012
    ...Id.FN7C. In the Absence of Statute or Rule, No Conditional Pleas Are Authorized6] ¶ 15 In the case at issue here, People v. Neuhaus, 240 P.3d 391, 398 (Colo.App.2009) (selected for official publication), a division of the court of appeals disagreed with Bachofer. Citing the lack of authorit......
  • People v. Butler, No. 08CA0944.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • July 22, 2010
    ...plea waives all nonjurisdictional objections, including allegations that constitutional rights have been violated. People v. Neuhaus, 240 P.3d 391, 393 (Colo.App.2009). A guilty plea waives a defendant's right to challenge his or her plea on the basis of an illegal search and seizure. Peopl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • People v. Hoffman, No. 08CA1008.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • June 3, 2010
    ...of judicial economy. After the completion of briefing for this appeal, a different division of this court concluded in People v. Neuhaus, 240 P.3d 391, 394–95 (Colo.App.2009), that in the absence of a statute or rule authorizing conditional plea agreements, they are not permitted under Colo......
  • State v. Rice, No. 27210.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • January 16, 2013
    ...all federal courts, military courts, and the District of Columbia permit conditional guilty pleas in some manner. See People v. Neuhaus, 240 P.3d 391, 394–96 (Colo.Ct.App.2009) (providing a general review of the varying approaches as to conditional guilty pleas). Because South Carolina perm......
  • Neuhaus v. People, No. 10SC27.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • November 19, 2012
    ...Id.FN7C. In the Absence of Statute or Rule, No Conditional Pleas Are Authorized6] ¶ 15 In the case at issue here, People v. Neuhaus, 240 P.3d 391, 398 (Colo.App.2009) (selected for official publication), a division of the court of appeals disagreed with Bachofer. Citing the lack of authorit......
  • People v. Butler, No. 08CA0944.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • July 22, 2010
    ...plea waives all nonjurisdictional objections, including allegations that constitutional rights have been violated. People v. Neuhaus, 240 P.3d 391, 393 (Colo.App.2009). A guilty plea waives a defendant's right to challenge his or her plea on the basis of an illegal search and seizure. Peopl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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