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Guilty Pleas – Factual Basis — Questions of Disputed Fact Not Reviewable

State v. Harold Merryfield, 229 Wis.2d 52, 598 N.W.2d 251 (Ct. App. 1999)
For Merryfield: Edward J. Hunt

Holding: Merryfield was originally charged with one felony and one misdemeanor. Pursuant to a plea bargain, he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor, and the state agreed to drop the felony (but critically, as it turns out, didn’t formally move to dismiss; nor did the trial court formally dismiss it). The case was adjourned for sentencing, during which time Merryfield was out on bond. He picked up new charges in the meanwhile, including two felony bail jumpings, to which he eventually pleaded guilty. He filed a postconviction motion arguing that the bail jumpings should have been misdemeanors (because his release was on a misdemeanor, not a felony). The court of appeals rejects his arguments that there was no factual basis and that the felony charges violated the original plea bargain. A guilty plea admits all factual assertions pleaded in the information. Merryfield’s pleas therefore admitted that he had been released on a felony, and he can’t now argue otherwise. To consider the merits of Merryfield’s no factual-basis argument, the court would have “to go behind the allegations” of the charging documents “to determine the intent of the parties and the court” at the original plea proceeding. This, the court holds, “would be well beyond the purpose of the statutory ‘factual basis’ inquiry[.]” In other words, because the original felony wasn’t formally dismissed, it became a matter of disputed fact as to whether Merryfield’s release on bond was just on the misdemeanor, or on the felony as well – and, a factual basis inquiry may not resolve a question of disputed fact.

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