State v. Lamb

Decision Date16 August 2012
Docket NumberNo. 86603–1.,86603–1.
Citation285 P.3d 27,175 Wash.2d 121
CourtWashington Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Kenneth Eugene LAMB, Petitioner.

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Loren Oakley, Clallam Public Defender, Port Angeles, WA, for Petitioner.

Lewis M. Schrawyer, Attorney at Law, Port Angeles, WA, for Respondent.

OWENS, J.

[175 Wash.2d 124]¶ 1 This case concerns a trial court's exercise of discretion in vacating judgments, in disallowing the State to amend an information in a criminal case, and in dismissing counts of an information. Kenneth Lamb was charged with, among other things, 10 counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. The State alleged that Lamb was precluded from possessing firearms because of his 1991 juvenile adjudication for second degree burglary. Lamb moved to withdraw his 1991 plea of guilty and vacate the juvenile adjudication. The trial court 1 granted Lamb's motion. The trial court also denied the State's motion to amend the information to instead rely on another juvenile adjudication and, ultimately, dismissed the 10 unlawful possession of a firearm counts. The State appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed all three of the trial court's rulings. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

FACTS

¶ 2 In 1987, Lamb pleaded guilty in juvenile court to indecent liberties based on his causing another person less than 14 years of age to have sexual contact with him. Lamb was 11 years old at the time of his offense. This means of committing indecent liberties was removed from the statute in 1988. Laws of 1988, ch. 145, § 10. In 1991, Lamb pleaded guilty in juvenile court to second degree burglary. At the time of entry, Lamb's juvenile adjudications did not result in the termination of his right to possess firearms.

¶ 3 After Lamb's adjudications, the legislature amended the prohibition on possession of firearms in several ways that affected Lamb. In 1992, the legislature amended RCW 9.41.040 to prohibit possession of short firearms or pistols by persons adjudicated guilty, as juveniles, of crimes of violence, including second degree burglary, former RCW 9.41.010 (1992). Laws of 1992, ch. 205, § 118. In 1994, the legislature enacted RCW 9.41.047, which requires the court to notify an offender, at the time of conviction, of his or her ineligibility to possess a firearm. Laws of 1994, 1st Spec. Sess., ch. 7, § 404. The legislature also expanded the prohibition to all firearms, not just short firearms and pistols. Id. § 402. In 1996, the legislature expanded the scope of the unlawful possession of a firearm statute to encompass persons convicted or adjudicated of any felony. Laws of 1996, ch. 295, § 2. Thus, as of 1992, a juvenile adjudication of guilt for second degree burglary made possession of certain firearms a criminal offense, and, as of 1996, each of Lamb's felony juvenile adjudications independently precluded him from possessing any firearm. It is a verity on this appeal that Lamb never received notice that his right to possess firearms had been terminated.

¶ 4 In 2009, the State initiated the present case by charging Lamb with 3 counts of theft of a firearm, 10 counts of second degree unlawful possession of a firearm, and 1 count of unlawful manufacture of marijuana. The State relied on Lamb's 1991 second degree burglary adjudication as the predicate offense for the unlawful possession of a firearm counts.

¶ 5 Before trial, Lamb filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea to, and vacate the order of disposition on, his juvenile adjudication for second degree burglary. In his motion, Lamb contended that the plea was not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent because he was not informed that his right to possess firearms would be terminated. Following a hearing, the trial court orally granted the motion and, one week later, issued written findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court's order was based on its conclusion that “under the totality of the facts and circumstances in this case denying the motion to withdraw the plea of guilty and vacate the order of disposition would be fundamentally unfair and constitute a manifest injustice.” 1 Clerk's Papers (CP) at 13.2 The State appealed on September 30, 2009. In its appeal, the State argued that Lamb's motion should have been treated as a time barred personal restraint petition.

¶ 6 Immediately following the trial court's denial of the motion for reconsideration, the State moved to amend the information a second time to make Lamb's juvenile indecent liberties conviction the predicate felony for five of the unlawful possession of a firearm counts. Lamb, meanwhile, moved to dismiss all of the unlawful possession of a firearm counts. The trial court granted Lamb's motion to dismiss the unlawful possession of a firearm counts with prejudice and denied the State's motion. The State appealed.

¶ 7 The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the trial court had abused its discretion in (1) allowing Lamb to withdraw his plea and vacating the juvenile adjudication, (2) denying the State's motion to amend the information, and (3) dismissing the unlawful possession of a firearm charges. State v. Lamb, 163 Wash.App. 614, 618–19, 262 P.3d 89 (2011). With respect to the State's argument that Lamb's motion to vacate his juvenile adjudication was time barred, the Court of Appeals concluded that the State had abandoned the argument. Id. at 624 n. 6, 262 P.3d 89. Lamb petitioned for review of the three issues on which the Court of Appeals reversed the superior court; the State did not cross-petition with respect to the Court of Appeals' resolution of the time bar argument. We granted review of all the issues presented in the petition.3 Wash. Supreme Court Order, State v. Lamb, No. 86603–1 (Mar. 6, 2012); State v. Lamb, 272 P.3d 851 (2012).

ISSUES

¶ 8 1. Did the trial court err in allowing Lamb to withdraw his guilty plea and in vacating his juvenile burglary adjudication?

¶ 9 2. Did the trial court err in denying the State's motion to amend the information?

¶ 10 3. Did the trial court err in dismissing the unlawful possession of a firearm charges?

ANALYSIS
1. Withdrawal of Plea and Vacation of Lamb's Juvenile Adjudication

¶ 11 The first issue in this case concerns the trial court granting Lamb's motion to withdraw his 1991 guilty plea to second degree robbery and to vacate the juvenile adjudication based on that plea. A trial court's order on a motion to withdraw a guilty plea or vacate a judgment is reviewed for abuse of discretion. In re Pers. Restraint of Cadwallader, 155 Wash.2d 867, 879–80, 123 P.3d 456 (2005); State v. Marshall, 144 Wash.2d 266, 280, 27 P.3d 192 (2001). A trial court abuses its discretion if its decision “is manifestly unreasonable or based upon untenable grounds or reasons.” State v. Powell, 126 Wash.2d 244, 258, 893 P.2d 615 (1995). A court's decision “is based on untenable reasons if it is based on an incorrect standard or the facts do not meet the requirements of the correct standard.” In re Marriage of Littlefield, 133 Wash.2d 39, 47, 940 P.2d 1362 (1997). “A court's decision is manifestly unreasonable if it is outside the range of acceptable choices, given the facts and the applicable legal standard.” Id. The “untenable grounds” basis applies “if the factual findings are unsupported by the record.” Id.

¶ 12 In this case, the trial court's order vacating Lamb's juvenile burglary adjudication was based on untenablereasons. The trial court's stated basis for vacating Lamb's adjudication was that to deny the motion “would be fundamentally unfair and constitute a manifest injustice.” 1 CP at 8. While correction of a manifest injustice is a sufficient basis to permit withdrawal of a guilty plea under CrR 4.2(f), withdrawal of Lamb's guilty plea must also meet the requirements set forth in CrR 7.8 since the motion was made after judgment was entered. SeeCrR 4.2(f) (“If the motion for withdrawal is made after judgment, it shall be governed by CrR 7.8.”); see also State v. Robinson, 172 Wash.2d 783, 791 n. 4, 263 P.3d 1233 (2011).

¶ 13 The trial court abused its discretion because it did not use any legal standard applicable under CrR 7.8. The only basis for relief from a final judgment that Lamb identifies as applicable is the “catchall” provision of CrR 7.8(b), which permits relief for [a]ny other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.” CrR 7.8(b)(5). CrR 7.8(b)(5) allows for relief in situations not covered by subsections (1) through (4), see State v. Brand, 120 Wash.2d 365, 369, 842 P.2d 470 (1992), and “where the interests of justice most urgently require,” State v. Shove, 113 Wash.2d 83, 88, 776 P.2d 132 (1989). The trial court did not discuss this standard or any of the cases interpreting CrR 7.8(b)(5). A finding of “manifest injustice” does not automatically establish that relief is available under CrR 7.8(b)(5). Accordingly, the trial court's decision was based on untenable reasons and was an abuse of discretion.

¶ 14 We recognize that in Robinson and State v. A.N.J., 168 Wash.2d 91, 225 P.3d 956 (2010), we indicated that the manifest injustice standard of CrR 4.2(f) applies both before and after entry of judgment. Robinson, 172 Wash.2d at 791, 263 P.3d 1233;A.N.J., 168 Wash.2d at 106, 225 P.3d 956. In reaching this conclusion, we relied on State v. Taylor, 83 Wash.2d 594, 595, 521 P.2d 699 (1974). Robinson, 172 Wash.2d at 791–92, 263 P.3d 1233;A.N.J., 168 Wash.2d at 106–07, 225 P.3d 956. After Taylor was decided, however, CrR 4.2(f) was amended to state that motions for withdrawal made after entry of judgment are governed by CrR 7.8. Amendmentto CrR 4.2(f), 116 Wn.2d 1106 (effective Sept. 1, 1991). We did not discuss this amendment in either Robinson or A.N.J. We need not, in this case, revisit the discussion of the standard in Robinson and A.N.J.—a postjudgment motion to withdraw a guilty plea must either meet the requirements of bothCrR 4.2(f) and CrR 7.8, cf. Robinson, 172 Wash.2d at 791 n. 4...

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