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Guilty Plea – Procedure – Read-In — Admission Unnecessary

State v. David G. Straszkowski, 2008 WI 65, affirming summary order
For Straszkowski Philip J. Brehm

Issue: Whether a guilty plea colloquy must include an explicit warning that the defendant’s agreement to read in a dismissed charge will be deemed an admission of that charge for sentencing purposes.

Holding:

¶5   Although the case law on read-in charges is neither consistent nor clear, a proper reading of the history of Wisconsin’s read-in procedure demonstrates that it is not a critical component of a read-in charge that the defendant admit guilt of the charge (or that the defendant’s agreement to read in the charge be deemed an admission of guilt) for purposes of sentencing.  In sum, no admission of guilt from a defendant for sentencing purposes is required (or should be deemed) for a read-in charge to be considered for sentencing purposes and to be dismissed.  To avoid confusion, prosecuting attorneys, defense counsel, and circuit courts should hereafter avoid (as they did in the instant case) the terminology “admit” or “deemed admitted” in referring to or explaining a defendant’s agreement to read in a dismissed charge.  A circuit court should advise a defendant that it may consider read-in charges when imposing sentence but that the maximum penalty of the charged offense will not be increased; that a circuit court may require a defendant to pay restitution on any read-in charges; and that the State is prohibited from future prosecution of the read-in charge.

¶6   Although we hold that no admission of guilt from a defendant is required for a read-in offense to be dismissed and considered for sentencing purposes, this decision does not bar a circuit court from accepting a defendant’s admission of guilt of a read-in charge.  This decision does not address what plea colloquy duties a circuit court might have with respect to such an admission, the issue the defendant raises.[5]  Our narrow holding is that an admission of guilt is not required by our read-in procedure and that the circuit court should avoid the terminology “admit” or “deemed admitted” in referring to or explaining a read-in charge for sentencing purposes except when a defendant does admit the read-in charge.

¶93  Except when a defendant does in fact admit guilt of a read-in charge, stating that a defendant “admits guilt” of a read-in charge for purposes of sentencing is more likely to confuse than to guide the decisions made by a defendant or a sentencing court.  It is a better practice for prosecuting and defense counsel and circuit courts to omit any reference to a defendant admitting a read-in crime, except when the defendant does admit guilt, and simply to recognize that a defendant’s agreement to read in a charge affects sentencing in the following manner: a circuit court may consider the read-in charge when imposing sentence but the maximum penalty of the charged offense will not be increased;[66] a circuit court may require a defendant to pay restitution on the read-in charges;[67] and a read-in has a preclusive effect in that the State is prohibited from future prosecution of the read-in charge.[68]

¶94  To avoid any confusion, prosecuting attorneys, defense counsel, and circuit courts should hereafter avoid (as they did in the instant case) the terminology “admit” or “deemed admitted” in referring to or explaining a defendant’s agreement to read in charges.

¶95  We withdraw language in the case law that may be read as intimating that when a charge is read in a defendant must admit or is deemed to admit the read-in charge for sentencing purposes.

 

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