State v. Robinson

Decision Date06 October 2011
Docket NumberNo. 83444–0.,83444–0.
Citation263 P.3d 1233,172 Wash.2d 783
CourtWashington Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent,v.Chucco L. ROBINSON, Petitioner.


Tracy Scott Collins, Attorney at Law, Spokane, WA, for Petitioner.Mark Erik Lindsey, Spokane County Prosecutor's Office, Spokane, WA, for Respondent.CHAMBERS, J.

[172 Wash.2d 785] ¶ 1 Chucco Robinson erroneously believed that his earlier juvenile convictions had washed out and no longer counted toward his offender score. Based upon this understanding and after extensive negotiations, largely focused on an offender score that would lead to a mutually acceptable sentence, he pleaded guilty. Before sentencing, he learned that his juvenile convictions would count toward his offender score, significantly increasing the statutory sentencing range he faced. Robinson immediately moved to withdraw his plea. After a hearing, the trial court granted the motion, finding that Robinson's misunderstanding of the consequences of Washington sentencing law was reasonable, though erroneous, and that Robinson's plea was not made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. The State contends, successfully below, that the trial judge abused her discretion when she allowed Robinson to withdraw his plea. We find the ruling was within the sound discretion of the trial court. We reverse the Court of Appeals and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


¶ 2 Robinson's formal criminal history starts in 1991 when he was 14 years old. That year he accumulated four convictions: two for assault, one for taking a motor vehicle without permission, and one for reckless endangerment. 1 In 1994, when Robinson was 17, he was convicted of second degree murder. He was told at the time that his previous convictions would not be used to calculate his offender score because he committed the crime when he was younger than 15.

¶ 3 Very early one morning, just months after he completed his sentence for murder, Robinson knocked on the door of a woman he had recently met. When she opened the door, he entered, uninvited, and attempted to sexually assault her. She fought back and he left. She called the police. He was charged with first degree attempted rape, burglary, and kidnapping.

¶ 4 Robinson's defense counsel and the prosecutor attempted to negotiate a plea. Accordingly to defense counsel, “negotiations ... revolved around the sentencing range .... with the specific intent of getting Mr. Robinson into a sentencing range that was acceptable to all parties involved.” Clerk's Papers (CP) at 52. It appears that neither attorney was aware of Robinson's early juvenile criminal history. According to the record, Robinson reasonably believed the law at the time of his 1994 sentencing excluded his earlier crimes. The trial court in this case found that Robinson believed “ that those convictions were no longer on his criminal record, and that they could never be used against him again for any sentencing purpose.” CP at 40.

¶ 5 However, the law regarding scoring juvenile criminal history had changed while Robinson was in prison. Former RCW 9.94A.030 (1994); State v. Smith, 144 Wash.2d 665, 671, 30 P.3d 1245, 39 P.3d 294 (2001) (holding that the definition of “criminal history” in former RCW 9.94.030 did not include defendants' washed out juvenile convictions), abrogated by State v. Varga, 151 Wash.2d 179, 86 P.3d 139 (2004) (discussing former RCW 9.94A.030 (2002); Laws of 2002, ch. 107 § 2(13)). When Robinson entered his guilty plea in this case, his 1994 juvenile convictions did count toward his offender score. Former RCW 9.94A.525 (2008); In re Pers. Restraint of LaChapelle, 153 Wash.2d 1, 12, 100 P.3d 805 (2004) (holding that [u]nder the current [Sentencing Reform Act of 1981, ch. 9.94A RCW], no offender has a vested right in the definition of criminal history in effect when a previous crime was committed”); Varga, 151 Wash.2d at 191, 86 P.3d 139 (noting that the 2002 legislature intended to include previously washed out convictions in current offender score calculations).

¶ 6 During plea negotiations, the State and Robinson both appeared to have calculated Robinson's existing offender score by simply adding his murder conviction to his 1994 score of zero.2 In order to arrive at a sentencing range that was acceptable to both sides, Robinson agreed to plead guilty to first degree burglary and to enter a Barr plea to third degree rape. In re Pers. Restraint of Barr, 102 Wash.2d 265, 270, 684 P.2d 712 (1984); 3 CP at 12, 52. The State agreed to drop the kidnapping charge and filed a substitute information reflecting the reduced charges. As part of his guilty plea, Robinson signed a document titled “Understanding of Defendant's Criminal History” (Understanding). In it, he agreed that “each of the listed convictions count[ed] in the computation of the offender score” and that the Understanding “does not limit the use of additional criminal history if later ascertained.” CP at 61. The “Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty” also said:

The standard sentence range is based on the crime charged and my criminal history. Criminal history includes prior convictions and juvenile adjudications or convictions ... if any additional criminal history is discovered [before sentencing], both the standard sentence range and the prosecuting attorney's recommendation may increase. Even so, my plea of guilty to this charge is binding on me. I cannot change my mind if additional criminal history is discovered even though the standard sentencing range and the prosecuting attorney's recommendation increase.CP at 12 (emphasis added).

¶ 7 The Understanding does not list any of Robinson's 1991 juvenile convictions. It does list Robinson's 1994 felony conviction for second degree murder. Robinson affirmed at the plea hearing that the Understanding was true and correct to the best of his knowledge. Robinson signed the plea agreement and affirmed at the time of his plea that he had reviewed it carefully with his attorney and that he understood its contents.

¶ 8 The court accepted the plea and ordered a presentence report. The community corrections officer who conducted the presentence investigation reviewed four different databases and discovered the undisclosed juvenile convictions. The discovery of four undisclosed juvenile convictions increased the standard sentence range on the burglary conviction to 87–116 months (from 31–41 months) and the rape conviction to 41–54 months (from 13–17 months).

¶ 9 Before sentencing, and four days after being informed that the State would be seeking a sentence in a standard range that was nearly triple the negotiated sentencing range, Robinson moved to withdraw his plea, alleging a legal mistake. The court held a hearing to consider the motion. It agreed with the State that [n]ow that we have ... discovered that those crimes did in fact occur, and pursuant to current statute they should be counted in the calculation of the offender score.” Verbatim Record of Proceedings (VRP) at 28. But it also agreed with Robinson that given the substantially different standard range and the understandable mistake, “the plea was not made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily,” and granted the motion. Id. at 28–29. In its written findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court elaborated that it was granting Robinson's motion because (1) his “failure to disclose the prior juvenile convictions was based on a mistaken belief as to the law that those convictions had ‘washed’ prior to his 1994 sentencing”; (2) the Understanding was inaccurate; and (3) the defendant's guilty plea was not “knowing, voluntary or intelligently made due to [Robinson's] mistaken belief that the prior juvenile offenses had ‘washed,’ [resulting in a] substantial increase in the sentencing range.” CP at 40–41. With the court's permission, the substitute information charging the lesser charges was withdrawn, leaving Robinson facing the original first degree charges of attempted rape, kidnapping, and burglary.

¶ 10 The State appealed. In a published opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for sentencing. State v. Robinson, 150 Wash.App. 934, 210 P.3d 1045 (2009). The Court of Appeals held that because Robinson failed to disclose his juvenile offense history, he “assumed the contractual risk fixed in his plea agreement that the discovery of additional criminal history would increase his offender score and standard sentencing range.” Id. at 940, 210 P.3d 1045 (citing State v. Codiga, 162 Wash.2d 912, 928, 175 P.3d 1082 (2008)). We accepted review. State v. Robinson, 167 Wash.2d 1017, 224 P.3d 773 (2010).


¶ 11 Due process requires that a guilty plea may be accepted only upon a showing the accused understands the nature of the charge and enters the plea intelligently and voluntarily. State v. A.N.J., 168 Wash.2d 91, 117, 225 P.3d 956 (2010) (citing In re Pers. Restraint of Mendoza Montoya, 109 Wash.2d 270, 277, 744 P.2d 340 (1987); Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 242–43, 89 S.Ct. 1709, 23 L.Ed.2d 274 (1969)). A trial court may not accept a guilty plea without first determining that a criminal defendant has entered into the plea “voluntarily, competently and with an understanding of the nature of the charge and the consequences of the plea.” CrR 4.2(d); see also State v. Ross, 129 Wash.2d 279, 284, 916 P.2d 405 (1996) (stating that for a plea to be knowing and voluntary, a criminal defendant must be informed of all direct consequences of his plea). A defendant does not knowingly plead guilty when he bases that plea on misinformation regarding sentencing consequences. State v. Miller, 110 Wash.2d 528, 531, 756 P.2d 122 (1988) overruled on other grounds by State v. Barber, 170 Wash.2d 854, 248 P.3d 494 (2011). However, generally, a defendant accepts the risk that additional criminal history will be discovered prior to sentencing. Co...

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