People v. Stoddard, 2021-51051

CourtNew York Justice Court
Writing for the CourtThomas J. DiSalvo, J.
PartiesThe People of the State of New York v. Christopher Stoddard, Defendant.
Decision Date10 November 2021
Docket Number2021-51051,21070169

The People of the State of New York
v.

Christopher Stoddard, Defendant.

No. 2021-51051

No. 21070169

Justice Court of the Town of Webster, Monroe County

November 10, 2021


Unpublished Opinion

Sandra Doorley, District Attorney, Monroe County (Jacqueline Moyer, of Counsel), for plaintiff

Jason M. Housel, Esq. Attorney for Defendant

Thomas J. DiSalvo, J.

The defendant was charged by a uniform traffic information, with speeding in violation of VTL § 1180 (d). It was alleged that the defendant was going 69 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone on July 6, 2021 at 6:21 P.M. The defendant pled guilty by mail having signed the plea of guilty on July 8, 2021, without the assistance of counsel. In so doing the defendant hand wrote in the section reserved for an optional statement as follows:

"While I fully respect the officer [and] understand I was over the limit, I am certain I was not going as fast as claimed. Please understand I was going to pick up my ill son from practice as well." The court accepted his plea by mail on July 30, 2021. The court imposed a fine of $97.00 and the required surcharge of $93.00 for a total of $190.00. A written notice of same, dated August 4, 2021, was mailed to the defendant. Thus August 4, 2021 was the date of the judgment of conviction. [1]

To date no part of the fine or surcharge has been paid by the defendant.

This case is again before the court because the defendant's attorney, retained subsequent to the defendant's plea by mail, filed a motion dated August 16, 2021, requesting that the court issue an order permitting the defendant to withdraw his plea of guilty. Attached to the Notice of Motion is an Attorney Affirmation and a document labeled "Affidavit" which was signed by the defendant, but whose signature was not notarized.. The People have filed a response in opposition to said motion.

The defense alleges that subsequent to pleading guilty by mail, the defendant consulted the defense counsel now appearing herein. Defense counsel advises that he submitted a notice of appearance and a not guilty plea to the court. Neither of which are in the court's file. Nor did defense counsel attach copies of same as exhibits to his motion papers. Nevertheless, defense counsel states that while waiting for a court date he was advised that his client received the said fine notice from the court. In his affirmation, defense counsel argues that the court should permit the withdrawal of his client's plea because the defendant did not believe he was speeding as fast as was alleged in the simplified traffic information; that the plea was not knowingly and voluntarily made; that he did not seek the advice of legal counsel; that he did not understand court process, or what his options were; that he received an assessment notice from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, which he did not realize was a potential legal consequence prior to entering his plea. In his unsworn statement, the defendant alleges that he did not understand that the offense in question carried a significant point penalty on his driver license and that it would result in a DMV driver assessment. The defendant went on to argue that he did not understand he had options or that he could go court to present a defense or proffer mitigation to the court.

Issues Presented.

Is the fact that the defendant was unaware, among other things, that at the time he pled guilty to a speeding violation that his plea would result in a driver responsibility assessment a reason to permit him to withdraw his guilty plea?

Should the defendant be allowed to withdraw his plea because he was not represented by an attorney when he entered his guilty plea?

Legal Analysis.

A motion to vacate a judgment of conviction is governed by CPL § 440.10 (1). That section states in pertinent part as follows:

"At any time after the entry of a judgment, the court in which it was entered may, upon motion of the defendant vacate such judgment upon the ground that
(a) The court did not have jurisdiction of the action or of the person of the defendant; or
(b) The judgment was procured by duress, misrepresentation or fraud on the part of the court or a prosecutor or a person acting for or in behalf of a court or a prosecutor; or
(c) Material evidence adduced at a trial resulting in the judgment was false and was, prior to the entry of the judgment, known by the prosecutor or by the court to be false; or
(d) Material evidence adduced by the people at a trial resulting in the judgment was procured in violation of the defendant's rights under the constitution of this state or of the United States; or
(e) During the proceedings resulting in the judgment, the defendant, by reason of mental disease or defect, was incapable of understanding or participating in such proceedings; or
(f) Improper and prejudicial conduct not appearing in the record occurred during a trial resulting in the judgment which conduct, if it had appeared in the record, would have required a reversal of the judgment upon an appeal therefrom or
(g) New evidence has been discovered since the entry of a judgment based upon a verdict of guilty after trial, which could not have been produced by the defendant at the trial even with due
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