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No contest plea to grounds for termination of parental rights was knowing, voluntary, intelligent

State v. D.B., 2016AP440-441; 8/30/16, District 1 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

D.B. contends that his no contest plea as to the grounds for TPR was not knowing and intelligent because he did not understand the direct consequences of it–that is, that the court could order termination at the end of the disposition hearing. He thought the court would offer him treatment or parenting classes. D.B. lost on appeal based on the plea colloquy and the testimony of his attorney.

¶15 Here, the circuit court found that D.B.’s no contest plea was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent based on the colloquy and testimony from Strigenz. During the colloquy, the circuit court informed D.B. of the rights he was giving up, the elements of the continuing CHIPS ground, and that the next step was the dispositional hearing. D.B. indicated that he understood. The court told D.B. that the main factor to consider at the dispositional hearing was the best interest of his children. D.B. indicated that he understood. D.B. also indicated that he understood his right to challenge the termination of his parental rights at the dispositional hearing. The court confirmed with Strigenz that D.B. understood the two phases of the proceedings and the meaning of a no contest plea. At no point during the colloquy did the court or counsel suggest that the dispositional hearing would involve discussion of D.B.’s treatment options or possible parenting classes.

¶16 Moreover, at the post-disposition hearing, Strigenz discussed the strategy behind the no contest plea and confirmed that D.B. understood. She stated that she moved with withdraw as D.B.’s counsel when D.B. indicated his desire to withdraw his no contest plea and have a jury trial because D.B. believed his chances for a successful appeal would be higher following a jury trial. The circuit court found Strigenz’s testimony credible. Accordingly, we conclude that the record supports the circuit court’s finding that D.B.’s no contest plea was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.

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