Guilty pleas under King v. State

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What happened in King?[edit]

In King (1976) defendant pled guilty to larceny of a motor vehicle. The ADA agreed to recommend a split sentence of 3 years in prison, with all but 1 year suspended. The ADA also explained this offer to King’s family, who encouraged him to take the deal. King pled guilty, waived a presentence investigation, and requested immediate sentencing. The trial court “extensively” questioned King about the nature and consequences of the plea, including his expectations about the sentence:

Court: Have you plead guilty because you expected me to follow this recommendation?

King: No.

Defense counsel: No, I have advised him that the Court, if the Court desires, could sentence him to twenty years in prison, is that not correct?

King: Yes, sir.

Court: Would you plead guilty if I told you that I would sentence you to three years in the state penitentiary?

King: (No response.)

Defense counsel: … I would advise him not to plead guilty under those circumstances.

DA: In that case, that gets the Court involved in a plea negotiation. You know the Court could send him up for twenty years —

Defense counsel: He understands —

DA: I don't believe you can negotiate with the Court as to what he's going to do.

The court sentenced King to 3 years imprisonment. He moved to withdraw the plea. The court refused to hear evidence on the motion until the OCCA commanded it by writ of mandamus. The court then held a hearing and denied the motion. The OCCA granted certiorari to consider whether a defendant must be allowed to withdraw his plea when the trial court does not accept the DA’s sentence recommendation.

The guidelines in Smith v. OKC (1967) for ensuring the voluntariness of a plea under Boykin v. AL (US 1969), already required the trial court to determine competency, to advise the defendant of his rights, and to inform him that the court is not bound by any recommendation or agreement about the sentence.

The OCCA reasoned that the Smith procedures still allowed for the taint of false inducement based on the expectation that the trial court will usually follow the plea agreement. A plea induced by an agreement becomes involuntary if the trial court later refuses to impose the agreed sentence or other terms that induced the plea.

King changed existing guilty plea procedures by adding a full disclosure of the plea bargain to the trial court, and a disclosure by the court whether it accepts the agreement, conditionally accepts it pending presentence investigation or other evidence, or rejects it; and that if defendant persists in the guilty plea without an agreement, the court may impose a greater sentence.

King also clarified that if the court refuses to impose the agreed sentence, it must afford the defendant an opportunity to withdraw or affirm the guilty plea. The OCCA urged that this procedure be on the record to help eliminate subsequent legal challenges.

After 15 May 1976, these guidelines apply in guilty pleas:[edit]

Determining competence to plead[edit]

  1. The court must determine if defendant is competent
    1. by appropriate interrogation
      1. of the defendant, and
      2. defense counsel, unless counsel has been waived
    2. regarding past and present mental state
    3. and by the defendant's demeanor in court
  2. If a doubt[1] of competency exists, the court must order a competency evaluation per 22 O.S.2011, § 1175.2(A) et seq.
  3. If the court finds the defendant competent to enter a plea, the court shall proceed as follows:

Advice about the nature and consequences of plea[edit]

  1. The court shall advise the defendant
    1. of the right to counsel, if the defendant appears without counsel; and if indigent, the right to appointed counsel
    2. of the range of punishment for each charge, including minimum and maximum penalties
    3. whether the crime is an 85% crime
  2. and that the defendant
    1. is presumed innocent
    2. has the right to plead not guilty
    3. has the right to jury or nonjury trial, if a jury is waived, and the State must prove the charge at trial beyond a reasonable doubt, or she will be acquitted
    4. has the right to confront witnesses against her
    5. has the right to remain silent, or testify in her defense
    6. by pleading guilty, is giving up these rights.[2]
  3. A defendant who appears without counsel must affirmatively waive counsel on the record before entering a plea

Determining voluntariness of the plea[edit]

  1. The court shall ask
    1. whether there is a plea agreement
    2. whether the plea is voluntary
    3. whether any force, threats, or coercion were involved
  2. The court must reject any plea that is involuntary
  3. The court must determine if a factual basis exists for the plea
  4. If there is no plea agreement, the court may accept the plea and impose sentence without a recommendation, or after hearing the recommendation, and advising the defendant that the sentence will be the decision of the court
  5. If there is a plea agreement, the court shall require disclosure of all the terms, and tell the defendant
    1. if the court concurs with the terms, or
    2. if the court wants a presentence investigation
  6. If the court rejects the plea bargain, defendant must be allowed to withdraw the plea, and must be told that if she persists in the plea, a greater sentence can be imposed.

Important interpretations of King[edit]

Scope and application[edit]

  1. Purpose of King guidelines is to ensure voluntary plea and create a record of the circumstances surrounding the plea to facilitate review. Cox (2006)
  2. King applies to no contest, NC v. Alford (US 1970) pleas, and guilty pleas. Wester (1988)
  3. King does not require mechanical compliance. No formal ritual is necessary. Ocampo (1989).
  4. Valid plea is not dependent upon express mention and waiver of rights, if record establishes a voluntary and intelligent plea. Durant (1980).

Nature and consequences of plea[edit]

  1. Plea is not involuntary or subject to withdrawal based on defendant’s disappointment with sentence received on a blind plea. Lozoya (1992).
  2. Incorrect prediction or educated guess by counsel about the sentence, standing alone, is not grounds for withdrawal or claim of ineffective counsel. Estell (1988).
  3. Ineligibility for parole is a definite practical consequence of plea and must be explained to defendant for a voluntary plea. Ineligibility for work credits does not require similar advice, as such credits involve administrative function of DOC exercising broad powers of discretion. Robinson (1991).
  4. Because deportation is “an integral part—indeed, sometimes the most important part” of the consequences for noncitizen defendants who plead guilty to certain crimes, “accurate legal advice for noncitizens accused of crimes has never been more important.” Padilla v. KY (US 2010). The court and counsel should advise a foreign national of the risk of deportation as a potential consequence of a criminal conviction.
  5. Defendant has a right to know about the 85% Rule for sentences when entering a plea, Ferguson (2006), Pickens (2007), but not ineligibility for institutional earned credits, for the reasons stated in Robinson. Verduzco (2009).
  6. The current plea of guilty summary of facts form incorporates advice to a defendant at the time of plea if a conviction will subject him to increased penalties in subsequent convictions, Sex Offender Registration, Methamphetamine Offender Registration, or a term of post-imprisonment supervision of 3 or more years for sexual abuse and exploitation crimes listed in 22 O.S.Supp.2017, § 991a(A)(1)(f).

Factual basis[edit]

  1. King does not require a “perfunctory recitation” of the facts of the crime at the plea Berget (1991). Trial court may rely on, and appeals court will examine, the entire record to determine whether a factual basis exists, including
    1. probable cause affidavit Cox (2006)
    2. stipulation and offer of proof Wester (1988); Ligon (1986)
    3. plea form with defendant’s signature Coyle (1985)
    4. preliminary hearing transcript Wester (1988)
    5. pretrial confession to police or testimony Berget (1991)
    6. hearing on motion to withdraw plea Feaster (1975)
    7. capital sentencing phase transcript Brennan (1988)
    8. acceleration hearing on deferred sentence Reed (1979)
  2. The factual basis must be sufficient to provide a means by which the judge can test whether the plea is being entered intelligently, Hagar (1999), and that the court is not sending an innocent person to prison. Lozoya (1992).

Notable post-King cases[edit]

Durant (1980)[edit]

Remand for further hearing was required where minute of plea did not show court inquiry on factual basis, present and past mental status, advice on presumption of innocence and other rights mentioned in King, or inquiry whether plea was voluntary and not the result of force, threats or coercion.

Chastain (1985)[edit]

Court’s advice that maximum sentence was 5 years when maximum sentence was 10 years, did not require withdrawal of plea. Defendant received only 5 years, and offered no proof to show that plea was due to a failure to understand these consequences.

Coyle (1985)[edit]

Factual basis can include defendant’s statement to court of what happened, or plea form with defendant’s signature. Accepting plea, then asking if State wants to say anything before judgment, where court knew “very little, if anything, about this case" was insufficient factual basis under King. Asking only defense counsel if he thought defendant was competent, and asking only defendant’s name, age and if he thought himself competent, was not “appropriate interrogation” regarding past and present mental state under King.

Burch (1987)[edit]

Court’s inadvertent failure to make any inquiry into competency at time of plea was reversible error.

Estrada (1987)[edit]

Court advised defendant of penalty range of 10 years to life, rather than correct range of 4 to 20 years, and did not advise that repeat drug offender was ineligible for suspended or deferred sentence or probation. OCCA remanded with instructions to allow withdrawal of plea.

Love (1987)[edit]

Where the only competency-related question at plea was whether defendant was under influence of drugs, to which he answered no; and PSI stated defendant functioned at “upper end of the mild mental retardation range,” had severe emotional problems, and “organic brain syndrome,” inquiry was insufficient under King. Failure to inform defendant of presumption of innocence, right to remain silent, and burden of proof also supported withdrawal of guilty plea entered in violation of King.

Zakszewski (1987)[edit]

In Coyle, court asked only if defense counsel thought defendant competent, and asked the defendant his name, age, and if he thought himself competent. The only additional questions here, asking defendant’s education and type of work he had done in the past, were not enough to establish competence. Factual basis inquiry was also “grossly inadequate,” asking only if defendant was pleading because he committed the acts charged; defendant gave no details in statement; and was not told, when he seemed to deny knowing about the firearm, that knowledge was a required element of crime of possessing firearm.

Smith (1988)[edit]

Court failed to conduct adequate interrogation about competency when he asked if defense counsel was satisfied that defendant was competent and questioned defendant on non-competency areas, but never asked defendant or counsel about defendant's “past and present mental state” as required by King.

Wester (1988)[edit]

The trial court asked only two questions regarding defendant’s mental status: whether he was under the influence of medication and whether he had ever been declared incompetent, and directed no questions to the attorney about his opinion of defendant’s competency. The court’s competency inquiry was even less searching than it was in Coyle, as the court asked nothing of the attorney or defendant’s present mental state, and required reversal. (On rehearing) A factual basis is required for a no contest plea, but court may look to other sources than an admission of guilt in open court, including an evidentiary hearing, a preliminary hearing transcript, a stipulation of the facts, or documentary evidence presented to the court.

Ocampo (1989)[edit]

If prosecutor or defense attorney has any reservation as to whether the defendant is competent and entering a voluntary plea they have a duty to advise the court. King does not vitiate general statutory presumption that defendant is competent to enter plea. Counsel should raise present competency if articulable facts raise a question of competency before a plea, or be estopped from utilizing competency claims to obtain a delay. Competency and factual basis inquiry was sufficient under King where court conducted voir dire with defendant present before guilty plea, defendant entered waiver of rights, court ordered presentence investigation and set off sentencing, reviewed PSI report, and heard testimony of defendant before sentencing. No objections based on competency or the competency inquiry were raised until motion to withdraw.

May (1990)[edit]

Court's failure to advise of each element of crime did not violate King. Boykin's requirement that a defendant possess an understanding of the law in relation to the facts does not extend to an understanding of all the intricacies of a criminal defense. Explaining elements of the charge, and possible defenses, is the job of defense counsel, not the court.

Hagar (1999)[edit]

Factual basis was sufficient where defendant understood he was charged with possession of a controlled drug, and court concluded, based on statement that "I was in possession of CDS (meth)," on plea form prepared by counsel and signed by defendant, that factual basis existed.

Cox (2006)[edit]

Absent defendant’s admission of element of being person responsible for child’s health, safety, or welfare, or other indication in the record of this relationship, bare recitation in the information was insufficient factual basis to show defendant’s understanding of the nature and consequences of his plea.


  1. There is no difference in the proof required to raise a "doubt" of competency before trial, and a "substantial doubt" in the plea context. Allen (1998).
  2. All non-jurisdictional defects are also waived by entry of a guilty or no contest plea. Cox (2006). Frederick (1991) (guilty plea waived potential defense or mitigating evidence); Stokes (1987) (guilty plea waived challenge to charge); Maynard (1986) (no contest plea waived claim of illegal warrant); Brown (1965) (guilty plea waived irregularities in preliminary hearing). A guilty plea does not preclude a certiorari appeal to challenge the facial constitutionality of a statute, Maxwell (2006); Allen (1998); Lewis (2016), but constitutional challenges to a statute “as applied to the defendant” are not reviewable after a plea of guilty. Weeks (2015).