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Enhanced Penalties — Proof — Admission: More Required

State v. Razzie Watson, Sr., 2002 WI App 247
For Watson: Dennis Schertz

Issue/Holding:

¶5 An admission from a defendant stating, “I am a repeater,” without more, is insufficient to constitute an admission of a prior conviction under WIS. STAT. §973.12(1). As the circuit court indicated in its colloquy, “repeater” and “habitual offender” are legal, not factual terms, and a defendant may not be aware of what he or she is admitting. Cf. State v. Collins, 2002 WI App 177, ¶¶12-13, No. 01-2185-CR (holding that admission the defendant is a repeater is insufficient to show that convictions are “comparable” to a Wisconsin “serious felony” under WIS. STAT. § 939.62(2m)). See also State v. Farr, 119 Wis. 2d 651, 659, 350 N.W.2d 640 (1984) (stating that defendant’s admission “may not by statute be inferred”); State v. Zimmerman, 185 Wis. 2d 549, 557, 518 N.W.2d 303 (Ct. App. 1994) (holding that admission by defendant must make reference to the date of conviction and periods of incarceration if conviction is more than five years old).

¶6 However, State v. Liebnitz, 231 Wis. 2d 272, 288, 603 N.W.2d 208 (1999), directs us to consider “the totality of the record.” The complaint against Watson alleges that he is a repeater and that he “plead guilty on May 9, 1997, to felon in possession of a firearm in case no. 96-CF-713 before Judge Montabon.” This allegation includes both the nature and the date of the prior conviction and put Watson on notice that the State was seeking a repeater charge and that this charge was based, at least in part, on the felon in possession allegation. We therefore conclude that the plea hearing colloquy, in which the circuit court explained the effect of Watson’s admission, together with the complaint, which alleged the nature and date of Watson’s previous conviction, establish that Watson “fully understood the nature of the repeater charge.”Liebnitz, 231 Wis. 2d at 275.

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