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Trial Court’s Failure to Advise as to Mandatory Time isn’t a Basis to Withdraw a Plea

By: Megan Patituce

           A trial court’s failure to advise as to the mandatory nature of a sentence is not a valid basis to withdraw a plea pursuant to Crim. R. 32.1.  State v. Straley, Slip Op. 2019-Ohio-5206 (Dec. 19, 2019).  In 2009, Mr. Straley entered into a plea agreement that included an agreed sentence recommended at 35 years and 10 months. 

           During sentencing, the trial court provided an advisement as to the possible penalties.  Although the trial court properly explained that it was not obligated to accept the recommended sentence and that it could sentence Mr. Straley to maximum consecutive terms, it improperly advised as to the minimums.  The trial court improperly explained that it could, although unlikely, impose a term of community control instead of prison.  Such a sentence was not a legally viable option in 2009.

            Mr. Straley raised the issue unsuccessfully in his direct appeal.  Eight years later, he filed to withdraw his guilty plea, citing this sentencing issue.  He argued that the trial court’s failure to properly advise him as to the mandatory term of incarceration was an error justifying the withdraw of his plea.  The trial court denied his motion on res judicata grounds and also found that Mr. Straley had not demonstrated manifest injustice.  The Fourth District reversed and then the case made its way to the Ohio Supreme Court.

            The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision was based in the failure to demonstrate manifest injustice.  Specifically, the Court noted that there was no evidence of error that cause Mr. Straley to enter into the plea.  The trial court had notified Mr. Straley of the maximum possible penalties and the Ohio Supreme Court found that he could not have expected to be sentenced to a term less than that to which he had agreed.

            Long story short: Agreeing to a sentence makes for a tough uphill fight. 

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