Steele v. State

Decision Date25 October 2012
Docket NumberNo. 38794.,38794.
Citation153 Idaho 783,291 P.3d 466
CourtIdaho Court of Appeals
Parties Earl Wayne STEELE, Petitioner–Appellant, v. STATE of Idaho, Respondent.

Nevin, Benjamin, McKay & Bartlett LLP; Deborah A. Whipple, Boise, for appellant. Dennis A. Benjamin argued.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; John C. McKinney, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. John C. McKinney argued.

WALTERS, Judge Pro Tem.

Earl Wayne Steele appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. He asserts that his Alford1 plea to one count of sexual abuse of a child was not made knowingly or intelligently because he did not understand the consequences of his plea. According to Steele, those consequences include a negative psychosexual evaluation report, the imposition of a longer sentence, and parole "ineligibility." He also asserts that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney did not inform him of those consequences. We affirm.


Steele was indicted on three counts of lewd conduct with a minor under sixteen, Idaho Code § 18–1508, for alleged manual-to-genital contact with his daughter, and one count of sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen years, I.C. § 18–1506, for a sexual request he allegedly made to his daughter's friend. Steele asserted that he was unable to remember any of the alleged incidents as a result of heavy intoxication. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the State amended Count I of the indictment from a charge of lewd conduct to a charge of sexual abuse, dismissed the remaining charges, and agreed not to prosecute Steele on allegations that he abused two other children. Steele agreed to plead guilty without admitting a factual basis for his guilt pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970). The district court accepted Steele's Alford plea upon the State's recitation of the facts and set the matter for sentencing.

During the presentence investigation and Steele's psychosexual evaluation (PSE), Steele expressed remorse for his alcoholism, but equivocated on his acceptance of responsibility for the alleged sexual abuse. At the sentencing hearing, Steele stated, "I would like to apologize to my daughter. If I had touched her inappropriately, I didn't mean to or realize that I had. I had wrote a letter here. Your Honor, while thinking I was—it was truly possible of doing such an offense in a black out...."2 The district court rejected Steele's assertion that he was unable to remember any of the abuse as a result of intoxication because the conduct spanned multiple years. The district court then sentenced Steele to a unified term of twenty-five years including a fixed term of seven years, but subsequently reduced the sentence to a term of fifteen years with a seven-year determinate portion because the original sentence exceeded the statutory maximum punishment.

Steele filed a petition for post-conviction relief and two amended petitions, each asserting numerous claims. As relevant to this appeal, Steele asserted that he was not informed, prior to the entry of his plea, that his Alford plea and subsequent denials of guilt would result in consequences including a negative psychosexual evaluation, the imposition of a harsher sentence than would have otherwise been imposed, and the eventual denial of his parole. Steele's amended petition, which is less than clear, appears to frame each claim both as a due process violation and as a violation of his right to effective assistance of counsel. The district court denied Steele's petition following an evidentiary hearing. Steele appeals.


Steele asserts that all the allegations in his amended petition must be deemed to be true because the State did not file an answer to his amended petition.3 Steele relies on Hall v. State, 126 Idaho 449, 451, 885 P.2d 1165, 1167 (Ct.App.1994), in which this Court stated, "Allegations in an application for post-conviction relief must be deemed to be true until those allegations are controverted by the state." However, we have previously indicated that the "statement, frequently made in our opinions, that the allegations in a petition for post-conviction relief are deemed true until controverted by the State, refers only to the circumstance where the State has moved for summary disposition or the court has given notice of intent to summarily dismiss." Griffin v. State, 142 Idaho 438, 442, 128 P.3d 975, 979 (Ct.App.2006). Steele's petition was not decided by way of summary disposition. Thus, the standard Steele cites is inapplicable.

In order to prevail in a post-conviction proceeding, the petitioner must prove the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. I.C. § 19–4907 ; Stuart v. State, 118 Idaho 865, 869, 801 P.2d 1216, 1220 (1990). When reviewing a decision denying post-conviction relief after an evidentiary hearing, an appellate court will not disturb the lower court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. I.R.C.P. 52(a) ; Russell v. State, 118 Idaho 65, 67, 794 P.2d 654, 656 (Ct.App.1990). The credibility of the witnesses, the weight to be given to their testimony, and the inferences to be drawn from the evidence are all matters solely within the province of the district court. Larkin v. State, 115 Idaho 72, 73, 764 P.2d 439, 440 (Ct.App.1988). We exercise free review of the district court's application of the relevant law to the facts. Nellsch v. State, 122 Idaho 426, 434, 835 P.2d 661, 669 (Ct.App.1992).


Because a guilty plea by a criminal defendant waives certain constitutional rights, due process requires that a defendant's plea be entered voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. State v. Heredia, 144 Idaho 95, 97, 156 P.3d 1193, 1195 (2007) ; State v. Colyer, 98 Idaho 32, 34, 557 P.2d 626, 628 (1976) ; Hayes v. State, 146 Idaho 353, 355, 195 P.3d 712, 714 (Ct.App.2008). Accord McCarthy v. United States, 394 U.S. 459, 466, 89 S.Ct. 1166, 1170–71, 22 L.Ed.2d 418, 425 (1969). Therefore, the plea must be entered with a full understanding of what the plea connotes and of its consequences. Ray v. State, 133 Idaho 96, 99, 982 P.2d 931, 934 (1999) ; State v. Mauro, 121 Idaho 178, 180, 824 P.2d 109, 111 (1991). Accord Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 244, 89 S.Ct. 1709, 1712–13, 23 L.Ed.2d 274, 280 (1969). However, Idaho appellate courts have long held that a defendant must only be informed of the direct consequences of a plea, as opposed to the collateral or indirect consequences. Heredia, 144 Idaho at 97, 156 P.3d at 1195; Ray, 133 Idaho at 99–101, 982 P.2d at 934–36; State v. Huffman, 137 Idaho 886, 887, 55 P.3d 879, 880 (Ct.App.2002) ; Jakoski v. State, 136 Idaho 280, 285, 32 P.3d 672, 677 (Ct.App.2001) ; State v. Miller, 134 Idaho 458, 460, 4 P.3d 570, 572 (Ct.App.2000) ; Carter v. State, 116 Idaho 468, 468, 776 P.2d 830, 830 (Ct.App.1989). See also State v. Flowers, 150 Idaho 568, 573, 249 P.3d 367, 372 (2011) ; Hayes, 146 Idaho at 355, 195 P.3d at 714; State v. Shook, 144 Idaho 858, 859, 172 P.3d 1133, 1134 (Ct.App.2007). Accord Torrey v. Estelle, 842 F.2d 234, 235 (9th Cir.1988).

While it may be desirable to inform defendants of all foreseeable, albeit indirect, consequences of a plea, principles of due process do not impose such a burden on the courts. Miller, 134 Idaho at 461, 4 P.3d at 573; Carter, 116 Idaho at 469, 776 P.2d at 831. See also Williams v. State, 132 Idaho 437, 439, 974 P.2d 83, 85 (Ct.App.1998).

Idaho appellate courts have also determined that the Sixth Amendment does not contain an implied duty for an attorney to inform his client of the collateral consequences of a guilty plea. Ray, 133 Idaho at 102, 982 P.2d at 937; Retamoza v. State, 125 Idaho 792, 796–97, 874 P.2d 603, 607–08 (Ct.App.1994) ; Jones v. State, 118 Idaho 842, 844, 801 P.2d 49, 51 (Ct.App.1990) ; LaBarge v. State, 116 Idaho 936, 939, 782 P.2d 59, 62 (Ct.App.1989) ; Carter, 116 Idaho at 469, 776 P.2d at 831. The overwhelming majority of courts from other jurisdictions have similarly concluded that defense counsel's failure to advise a client of the collateral consequence of a guilty plea does not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. Carter, 116 Idaho at 469, 776 P.2d at 831. See also D'Ambrosio v. State, 112 Hawai‘i 446, 146 P.3d 606, 621 (App.2006) ; 5 WAYNE R. LAFAVE ET AL., CRIMINAL PROCEDURE § 21.4(d) at 816 (3d ed.2007). We also emphasize that it is generally desirable for counsel to advise their clients of significant collateral consequences of pleading guilty, but what is desirable or optimal does not define that which is constitutionally mandated. Retamoza, 125 Idaho at 797, 874 P.2d at 608.

Steele suggests that the distinction between direct and collateral consequences was abrogated by Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 U.S. 1473, 130 S.Ct. 1473, 1481–82, 176 L.Ed.2d 284, 293–95 (2010), for both due process and ineffective assistance of counsel claims. We disagree. In Padilla, the Supreme Court considered whether an attorney's incorrect advice that a guilty plea to a drug charge would not result in statutorily required deportation constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court stated:

We ... have never applied a distinction between direct and collateral consequences to define the scope of constitutionally "reasonable professional assistance" required under [ Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984) ]. Whether that distinction is appropriate is a question we need not consider in this case because of the unique nature of deportation.
Deportation as a consequence of a criminal conviction is, because of its close connection to the criminal process, uniquely difficult to classify as either a direct or a collateral consequence. The collateral versus direct distinction is thus ill-suited to evaluating a Strickland claim concerning the specific risk of deportation.

Id. at...

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