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Judges differ in stipulation matter

January 27, 2009

A panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges disagreed on whether a defendant pleaded guilty to the enhancement of his auto theft conviction based on his previous conviction for a similar crime.

In Emmanuel Stringer v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0806-CR-536, Judge Nancy Vaidik dissented from the majority's affirmation of Emmanuel Stringer's convictions of auto theft and operating never having received a license. Judges Patricia Riley and Carr Darden found Stringer effectively pleaded guilty to an enhancement of auto theft as a Class C felony after he stipulated the prior conviction. The state had introduced a certified copy of prior auto theft and receiving stolen parts convictions of Stringer's. His defense counsel declined to object because there was no basis for objecting to the testimony. Stringer was sentenced to 6-years executed on the auto theft as a Class C felony conviction and 60 days on the operating a vehicle never having received a license conviction.

Stringer appealed, arguing the trial court didn't properly advise him of the rights he was waiving. Citing Vanzandt v. State, 730 N.E.2d 721, 725 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), the majority ruled Stringer effectively pleaded guilty to the enhancement of auto theft to a Class C felony after his defense attorney stipulated to the prior conviction. Since he pleaded guilty, Stringer's challenge of the knowing and voluntary nature of his plea can't be made by direct appeal, but must be done through a petition for post-conviction relief, wrote Judge Riley.

In her dissent, Judge Vaidik wrote she believed Stringer stipulated to the admission of the certified copy of his prior conviction for auto theft and based on that, the trial court found him guilty of the enhancement. She would affirm the trial court, finding Stringer properly brought this direct appeal.

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