Robinson v. State, 53066

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Citation373 So.2d 898
Docket NumberNo. 53066,53066
PartiesTommy Lee ROBINSON, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date26 July 1979

Richard L. Jorandby, Public Defender, and Craig S. Barnard, Asst. Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

Jim Smith, Atty. Gen., and Benedict P. Kuehne, Asst. Atty. Gen., West Palm Beach, for appellee.

OVERTON, Justice.

This is an appeal from an order of the District Court of Appeal, Fourth District, dismissing defendant's appeal from a guilty plea as frivolous and contrary to the provisions of section 924.06(3), Florida Statutes (1977). The statute expressly precludes any direct appeal from a guilty plea, limiting the defendant's recourse to collateral attack upon his conviction. In response to appellee prosecutor's motion to dismiss, appellant Robinson challenged the constitutionality of the statute both facially and as applied. We have jurisdiction. 1

We find the statute constitutional as applied to this case. For the reasons expressed, we hold that its prohibitions against an appeal from a guilty plea are directed to pretrial rulings and not to matters which may occur contemporaneously with a plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere. The act does no more than codify the existing case law on this subject.

The relevant facts are as follows. Appellant, Tommy Lee Robinson, was charged by an information with aggravated battery, a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of fifteen years imprisonment. He was represented by the public defender who entered into plea negotiations with the state on appellant's behalf. Pursuant to these plea negotiations, the appellant withdrew his plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty to the less serious offense of aggravated assault, a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment. The trial judge properly and adequately made inquiry of the appellant, Robinson, to ensure that the plea was both intelligently and voluntarily made, including a recitation of evidence establishing a factual basis for the plea; that he was guilty of the act; that he understood the penalty for the offense to which he was pleading guilty; and that he was fully satisfied with the representation given him by his counsel. Upon conclusion, the trial court accepted the plea but delayed sentencing pending receipt of a presentence investigation report requested by defense counsel. After the report was filed, the trial court sentenced appellant to five years imprisonment. During the course of the proceedings, the trial court advised the appellant concerning his appeal rights in accordance with Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.670 as follows THE COURT: Mr. Robinson, you now being before the Court attended by your attorney, Mr. Gundling, having entered a plea of guilty to aggravated assault, a lesser included offense, therefore I adjudge you to be guilty of the offense of aggravated assault to which you have pleaded guilty.

The Court advises you that you have the right to appeal from the final Judgment of Conviction when probation has not been granted; that you have the right to appeal an Order Granting Probation; that you have the right to appeal an Order Revoking Probation; in case of such an appeal only the proceedings after the Order of Probation may be considered or reviewed; and you have the right to appeal a sentence on the ground that it is excessive or illegal.

The Court further advises you that any appeal by you from the judgment or sentence shall be taken within thirty days after the sentence is entered, provided that you may take an appeal from the judgment within thirty days after the judgment is entered. If you wish to appeal and are indigent, upon request, the Court must appoint an attorney to represent you.

The appellant, by the defense counsel who had negotiated the plea, filed a notice of appeal three days after being sentenced. Assignments of error and the designation of the entire record were made by the appellant. The appellee, state, filed its motion to dismiss on the grounds that the appeal was both frivolous and in violation of section 924.06(3), Florida Statutes (1977), which provides:

A defendant who pleads guilty or nolo contendere with no express reservation of the right to appeal shall have no right to a direct appeal. Such a defendant shall obtain review by means of collateral attack. 2

The entire record was before the district court of appeal, and no contention was or is made that the plea was not intelligently and voluntarily made nor is there a claim that the court is without jurisdiction or that the sentence is illegal. The issue presented to this Court by the appellant concerns the validity of the subject statute as it affects appellant's right to an appeal of his guilty plea. Appellant contends that section 924.06(3) is unconstitutional on two grounds. First, he asserts that indigents are denied equal protection of the law because the statute makes collateral attack of the guilty plea the initial means of review and thereby allegedly infringes on the right to a direct appeal with the assistance of counsel. Second, appellant claims that because section 924.06(3) makes procedural changes in the criminal law, it violates the exclusive rule-making function of this Court as provided in article V, section 2(a), Florida Constitution. Neither of these contentions has merit.

The real issue is the right of appeal which exists from a guilty plea. There appears to be a misunderstanding by the appellant of the effect of a guilty plea and the extent he can appeal therefrom. To put the issue in proper perspective, it is necessary to understand the nature and legal effect of a plea of guilty. The law is clear that a plea of guilty is an in-court confession and an agreement for the court to enter a judgment of conviction. In Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 242, 89 S.Ct. 1709, 1712, 23 L.Ed.2d 274 (1969), the United States Supreme Court said: "A plea of guilty is more than a confession which admits that the accused did various acts; it is itself a conviction; nothing remains but to give judgment and determine punishment." See Williams v. State, 316 So.2d 267 (Fla.1975).

Once a defendant enters a plea of guilty, the only points available for an appeal concern actions which took place contemporaneously with the plea. A plea of guilty cuts off any right to an appeal from court rulings that preceded the plea in the criminal process including independent claims relating to deprivations of constitutional rights that occur prior to the entry of the guilty plea. In Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 267, 93 S.Ct. 1602, 1608, 36 L.Ed.2d 235 (1973), the United States Supreme Court said: "When a criminal defendant has solemnly admitted in open court that he is in fact guilty of the offense with which he is charged, he may not thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea." Appellant recognized and conceded this point in his brief to the district court of appeal when he stated:

Appellant is not contending that this Court should review prior rulings by the trial court (such as the denial of a Motion to Suppress, etc.) where there is no reservation of that point for appeal. Rather, pursuant to the reservation of the "right to appeal" such as in the instant case, review is limited to the circumstances surrounding the entry of the plea itself.

See generally Note, Post-Conviction Challenges to Guilty Plea Convictions: A Standard for Determining When an Evidentiary Hearing is Required, 16 Am.Crim.L.Rev. 163 (1978).

It is our opinion that the statute and our present rules reflect a codification of the existing case law which holds that a valid guilty plea conclusively disposes of all prior issues presented in the cause. The statutory language, "A defendant who pleads guilty . . . shall have no right to a direct appeal," forecloses appeal from matters which took place before ...

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