Court Finds Wisconsin Man Was Not Prejudiced Due to Ineffective Representation Provided Prior to Guilty Plea

By Reddin & Singer

Plants

To successfully withdraw a guilty plea based on ineffective assistance of counsel in Wisconsin, a defendant must show he or she suffered prejudice. In an unpublished opinion, a man who lived separately from his wife was accused of kicking the woman and growing marijuana plants in her Oconto County basement. As a result, the man was charged with felony manufacturing of THC, and misdemeanor domestic abuse, possession of drug paraphernalia, and bail jumping. Although the man was released with instructions to have no contact with his wife, he allegedly emailed the woman not long after his release. As a result, the man was also charged with felony bail jumping.

Next, the State of Wisconsin agreed to dismiss all of the original charges for purposes of sentencing if the defendant agreed to plead no contest to a reduced misdemeanor bail jumping charge. In addition, the prosecution recommended that the defendant serve no time in jail. The defendant apparently accepted the plea agreement in July 2013.

A few months later, the defendant sought to withdraw his plea, based on deficient legal representation. According to the man, his lawyer failed to sufficiently investigate the origin of the email that led to his second charge despite his requests. Still, the defendant stated that he was not coerced or threatened into accepting the plea deal and indicated that he was satisfied with his attorney’s representation.

At a hearing on the matter, the defendant offered evidence that the email at issue originated from his wife’s computer. Although the man did not dispute writing the communication at issue, he claimed his wife accessed his account without permission and sent a draft email that was stored there to herself. Because of this, the defendant claimed his plea should be withdrawn.

Following the hearing, the district court stated the defendant’s evidence failed to prove who sent the email at issue, although much of it appeared credible. The court added that the attorney’s performance may have been ineffective with regard to the felony bail jumping charge, but it had no effect on the other five crimes the man stood accused of. Since the plea agreement ended in no jail time, one reduced charge, and five dismissed charges, the court denied the defendant’s post-conviction motion to withdraw his plea. After that, the defendant filed an appeal with District III of the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin.

On appeal, the court said a defendant who wishes to withdraw a guilty plea in Wisconsin after his or her sentencing takes place must show that a manifest injustice would occur if the plea were allowed to stand. In addition, a guilty plea must be withdrawn if it resulted from constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel. In order to establish this, the appellate court stated a defendant must demonstrate deficient representation and resulting prejudice. Since the defendant failed to establish that he was prejudiced by his attorney’s purported ineffective assistance, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District III affirmed the district court’s order denying his motion to withdraw his no contest plea.

If you were accused of possession of marijuana or another drug offense in the State of Wisconsin, you are advised to contact the law offices of Reddin & Singer, LLP through our website or give us a call today at (414) 271-6400. Our experienced Milwaukee criminal lawyers may also be reached using our phone number (414) 271-6400.

Additional Resources

State v. Clarmont, Wis: Court of Appeals, 3rd Dist. 2015

Photo Credit: growweedeasy, MorgueFile