State v. Zimmerman, 93-1896-CR

Decision Date18 May 1994
Docket NumberNo. 93-1896-CR,93-1896-CR
Citation185 Wis.2d 549,518 N.W.2d 303
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Gary ZIMMERMAN, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtWisconsin Court of Appeals

Before ANDERSON, P.J., and BROWN and SNYDER, JJ.

SNYDER, Judge.

Gary Zimmerman appeals from the habitual criminality (repeater) sentencing provision of a judgment of conviction for armed robbery and from an order denying his motion for postconviction relief. Zimmerman contends that the repeater portion of his sentence was not authorized by law because the State failed to provide sufficient proof that the prior conviction was within five years of the present offense as required by § 939.62(2), STATS., and he did not admit the repeater allegation. We agree; therefore, we reverse the repeater provision of the sentence and commute the sentence to the maximum on the underlying charge. We also reverse the trial court's order denying the postconviction motion.

The facts are not in dispute. On December 18, 1991, the State filed a criminal complaint charging Zimmerman with armed robbery. The complaint made no mention of previous offenses and no repeater allegations. On April 20, 1992, the State filed an information alleging that Zimmerman had been convicted of aggravated battery in Potter County, Texas on or about November 9, 1983 and had been "released" on March 28, 1991, thereby making him a habitual criminal according to § 939.62(2), STATS. 1 However, the information did not indicate when Zimmerman's sentence commenced and over what period of time he was actually incarcerated. At the arraignment held later the same afternoon, Zimmerman waived the reading of the complaint. No mention was made of the new repeater allegation contained in the information.

On October 2, 1992, the court held a plea and sentencing hearing. Prior to accepting Zimmerman's guilty plea, the court noted the repeater allegation in the information. Zimmerman acknowledged receiving a copy of the information and admitted that he was convicted of a felony in Texas in 1983. When discussing Zimmerman's understanding of the plea agreement, Zimmerman's attorney stated that she assumed that the habitual criminality charge would be dismissed. When questioned further, both Zimmerman and his attorney stated that they understood that in exchange for a guilty plea to the armed robbery charge, the State would recommend a twenty-five-year prison term concurrent to any previous sentence. The maximum term for armed robbery is twenty years. Sections 943.32(2) and 939.50(3)(b), STATS.

The court accepted Zimmerman's guilty plea and also found that he had been convicted of a felony within the past five years in Texas, thereby designating him a repeat offender under § 939.62(2), STATS. The court subsequently imposed a twenty-five-year concurrent sentence, attributing five years to Zimmerman's repeat offender status.

On April 8, 1993, Zimmerman filed a postconviction motion to vacate the five years of his sentence attributable to the penalty enhancer on grounds that he did not have notice of the repeater provision at his arraignment and the court did not have a sufficient basis upon which to sentence him as a repeat offender. The trial court denied the motion. Zimmerman appeals the judgment and the order denying his motion for postconviction relief.

At the outset, the parties dispute the appropriate standard of review on appeal. We reject the State's suggestion that we must give deference to the trial court's decision finding Zimmerman to be a habitual criminal. Review of the trial court's use of the penalty enhancer in this case requires the application of §§ 939.62 and 973.12, STATS., to an undisputed set of facts. Therefore, the issue presents a question of law to be reviewed de novo. State v. Carpenter, 179 Wis.2d 838, 841, 508 N.W.2d 69, 71 (Ct.App.1993). The issue is whether the penalty enhancer imposed was void as a matter of law, not whether the lower court misused its discretion. See State v. Wilks, 165 Wis.2d 102, 107 n. 6, 477 N.W.2d 632, 635 (Ct.App.1991).

According to § 939.62(2), STATS., a defendant "is a repeater if he was convicted of a felony during the 5-year period immediately preceding the commission of the crime for which he is presently being sentenced." In addition, time which the defendant spent in actual confinement serving a criminal sentence is excluded from the five-year computation period. Id. A defendant is subject to the increased penalty if "such prior convictions are admitted by the defendant or proved by the state." Section 973.12(1), STATS.; State v. Coolidge, 173 Wis.2d 783, 796, 496 N.W.2d 701, 708 (Ct.App.1993). Based upon our review of the record, we conclude that neither requirement mandated by § 973.12(1) was established in this case.

The State's primary argument is that this case is controlled by State v. Rachwal, 159 Wis.2d 494, 465 N.W.2d 490 (1991). In Rachwal, the supreme court held that under the circumstances of the case:

[A] plea of guilty or no contest to a criminal complaint containing a "repeater provision" alleging a prior conviction constitutes, under sec. 973.12, STATS., an admission by the defendant of such prior conviction so that the state need not prove such prior conviction for purposes of sentence enhancement according to sec. 939.62.

Rachwal, 159 Wis.2d at 512-13, 465 N.W.2d at 497. Therefore, the State argues that Zimmerman's guilty plea in the present case constituted an admission to the repeater allegation such that it need not prove the prior conviction.

Despite the State's suggestion, Rachwal does not stand for the proposition that a guilty plea constitutes an admission per se. In fact, the court expressly recognized that a guilty plea may not constitute an admission if the judge fails to conduct the proper questioning so as to ascertain the meaning and potential consequences of such a plea. Id. at 512, 465 N.W.2d at 497. It is well established that the admission may not by statute be inferred or made by the defendant's attorney, but rather must be a direct and specific admission by the defendant. State v. Farr, 119 Wis.2d 651, 659, 350 N.W.2d 640, 645 (1984). Based upon our reading of the record, we cannot conclude that the colloquy into Zimmerman's understanding of the meaning of the repeater allegation he was facing can be said to have produced a direct and specific admission. See Rachwal, 159 Wis.2d at 509, 465 N.W.2d at 496.

In Rachwal, the trial court expressly drew the defendant's attention to the repeater charge and to the fact that the possible penalties the defendant was facing might be enhanced as a result of the defendant being found guilty pursuant to his no contest plea. Further, the court repeatedly questioned the defendant regarding his understanding of the situation and potential consequences. Id.

In the present case, unlike Rachwal, there was confusion at the plea hearing as to the nature of the plea agreement. Although both Zimmerman and his counsel stated that their understanding was that the State would recommend a twenty-five-year prison term for a plea to armed robbery, neither expressly acknowledged Zimmerman's repeater status. 2 Zimmerman indicated on his plea questionnaire that he believed his maximum exposure for the armed robbery charge to be twenty years, but failed to mention anything regarding the repeater charge and its possible consequences. Zimmerman's counsel stated at the plea hearing that she assumed that the repeater charge was going to be dismissed.

It is true that Zimmerman did admit to being convicted of aggravated battery in Texas in 1983 and did admit to the facts as stated in the criminal information. However, at no time did Zimmerman admit that the prior conviction was less than...

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  • State v. Bonds
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • June 30, 2006
    ...admission must contain specific reference to the date of the conviction and any period of incarceration. State v. Zimmerman, 185 Wis.2d 549, 557, 518 N.W.2d 303 (Ct.App.1994). Bonds made no statement that could establish the date of a prior felony 12. We do not exclude the use of a CCAP rep......
  • State v. Bonds, 2006 WI 83 (Wis. 6/30/2006)
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • June 30, 2006
    ...admission must contain specific reference to the date of the conviction and any period of incarceration. State v. Zimmerman, 185 Wis. 2d 549, 557, 518 N.W.2d 303 (Ct. App. 1994). Bonds made no statement that could establish the date of a prior felony 12. We do not exclude the use of a CCAP ......
  • State v. Saunders
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    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • July 16, 2002
    ...reference to the date of the conviction and any period of incarceration if relevant to applying § 939.62. State v. Zimmerman, 185 Wis. 2d 549, 557, 518 N.W.2d 303 (Ct. App. 1994). This court has also concluded that a defendant who pleads no contest can be held to have admitted to a prior co......
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    • May 27, 2009
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