Court examines 'entry' of guilty plea withdrawal motions

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The Court of Appeals has ruled that a man convicted of not paying more than $22,000 in child support wrongly interpreted state law about withdrawing his guilty plea, and that the trial judge correctly prevented the man from doing so because he didn’t file a request in writing or justify the withdrawal.

In Thomas A. Peel v. State, No. 76A05-1012-CR-809, the appellate court upheld a judgment from Steuben Circuit Judge Allen Wheat regarding nonsupport of a dependent, a Class C felony. The state charged Peel in May 2009 for the child support arrearage of more than $15,000, and then several months later amended the information to reflect an increase in the total of more than $22,000.

Peel pleaded guilty in August 2010 and acknowledged at the plea hearing that he understood the terms of the agreement and was entering into the plea “knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily.” More than four months later, the trial court held a sentencing hearing and Peel’s attorney stated that his client wanted to withdraw the guilty plea. Though the withdrawal request wasn’t made in writing as required by Indiana Code 35-35-1-4(b), Peel’s attorney said his client had felt pressured to enter the plea agreement because his cellmate had committed suicide and that traumatic experience influenced his decision about what was in his own best interest.

The trial court denied the motion and heard sentencing arguments, then entered its judgment of conviction and sentence. The judge then issued a written order confirming its denial of Peel’s verbal plea withdrawal motion and concluded it was appropriate under IC 35-35-1-4(b).

On appeal, Peel argued that state statute doesn’t apply to his motion because the verbal request was made before the court entered judgment on the plea. Specifically, the law states that, “After entry of a plea of guilty… the court may allow the defendant by motion to withdraw his plea of guilty… for any fair and just reason unless the state has been substantially prejudiced by reliance upon the defendant’s plea.”

That statute also says the motion “shall be in writing and verified”… and that it “shall state facts in support of the relief demanded.”

Relying on an Indiana Supreme Court case a decade ago in Brightman v. State, 758 N.E. 2d 41, 44 (Ind. 2001), the appellate panel noted that statute governs motions filed “after a defendant pleads guilty but before a sentence is imposed.”

As a result, the appeals panel found Peel incorrectly interpreted the statute to say that it only applies after the “entry of judgment” on a guilty plea.”

“But the plain statutory language is broader than Peel suggests, and it applies anytime ‘after entry of a plea of guilty,’” Judge Edward Najam wrote, using Black’s Law Dictionary to determine the word “entry” means the placement of something before the court.

Peel confuses the two distinct phases of “entry” and “acceptance” of a guilty plea, the appellate panel determined.

Since the statute applied and he didn’t make it in writing as required, the appeals court determined that the trial judge correctly denied his motion. The issue is waived and the appellate court didn’t address whether the motion might have been aimed at correcting any “manifest injustice” as the state Supreme Court has determined these motions are meant to address.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.