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Enhancer – Pleading – Misstating Date of Prior Convictions by One Day

State v. Robert J. Stynes, 2003 WI 65, reversing unpublished opinion
For Stynes: Patrick M. Donnelly, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether the complaint’s misstatement (by one day) of the date of prior convictions in support of a repeater allegation deprived Stynes of adequate notice, contrary to § 973.12(1) and due process.

Holding:

¶2. We conclude that the complaint provided Stynes with the required notice of the predicate convictions. Because the complaint, in referring to those convictions, described the offenses, stated the correct county where the convictions occurred, cited the case number, and misstated the date of the convictions by only one calendar day, we determine that the misstatement did not meaningfully change the basis on which Stynes entered his plea. We therefore reverse the court of appeals decision.

¶34. In sum, because the complaint, in referring to the predicate convictions, described the offenses, stated the correct county where the convictions occurred, cited the case number, and misstated the date of the convictions by only one calendar day, we determine that the misstatement did not meaningfully change the basis on which Stynes entered his plea. We therefore conclude that the complaint provided Stynes with the required notice of the predicate convictions on which his repeater status was based.

State v. Wilks, 165 Wis. 2d 102, 477 N.W.2d 632 (1991) (misstatement by 10 months of date of prior conviction invalidated repeater allegation) distinguished: discrepant dates much greater, ¶26; confusion as to whether Wilks prosecutor indeed meant to refer to the valid conviction, ¶¶27-28.

¶32. This case involves an error that did not affect Stynes’ ability to assess meaningfully the extent of the punishment at the time he pleaded to the charges. The error of one calendar day did not mislead or confuse Stynes. The complaint provided him with a description of the offenses, the county where the convictions occurred, the case number, and a date of the convictions that was off by one calendar day. In these circumstances, the complaint provided Stynes with the information necessary to identify which of his prior convictions would be used to establish his repeater status.¶33. Although we disagree with the ultimate conclusion of the court of appeals, we certainly agree with its sentiments and its urging of prosecutors and trial courts to adopt practices which, if followed, would have obviated the need for this appeal.…

State v. Goldstein, 182 Wis. 2d 251, 261, 513 N.W.2d 631 (Ct. App. 1994), quoted with approval for idea that “correctly pleading and proving an enhanced sentence is not a particularly onerous or complicated prosecutorial task.” Concurrence by Chief Justice urges adoption of bright-line rule requiring pleading precision. ¶¶35, et seq. The concurrence is interesting for its stress on costs vs. benefits – traditionally the bane of defense-oriented argumentation [think exclusionary rule] – and not just in relation to litigating the sufficiency of pleadings case by case, but also in the real underlying issue: this defendant received a 12-year sentence, enhanced from a possible two years, for behavior that was relatively minor and that will end up costing the taxpayers about $250,000.

 

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