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Guilty Pleas – Required Knowledge — Elements — Court Need Not Explain How State Must Prove Each Element

State v. John T. Trochinski, 2002 WI 56, affirming unpublished decision
For Trochinski: James L. Fullin, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether the defendant met his burden of showing a prima facie case that he didn’t understand an element of the offense to which he pleaded guilty.


¶22. Wisconsin’s courts have been relying on Bangert since it was written in 1986, and nothing in that case suggests that a circuit court is required to do as Trochinski suggests here–describe the elements of the offense and ensure the defendant specifically understands how the State must prove each element. Trochinski alleges that he did not understand that every nude photo of him is not necessarily harmful to children. However, this is not required. Wisconsin Stat. § 971.08 and Bangert require that Trochinski knew and understood the elements of the offense.

¶23. Applying the Bangert standard and procedure to the facts presented here, and upon review of the record, we conclude that Trochinski has failed to meet his burden to establish a prima facie case. Trochinski’s knowledge of the elements of the offense is clearly established by both the signed plea questionnaire and the plea colloquy. The elements of § 948.11(2) are clearly laid out on the plea questionnaire, including ‘[y]ou exhibited harmful material to a child’ and ‘[y]ou had knowledge of the nature of the material.’ Furthermore, during the plea colloquy Trochinski acknowledged he understood the plea form, the information in the form was truthful, and again the court summarized the elements of the crime as applied to the offense to which Trochinski was pleading no contest. Moreover, at the postconviction hearing, Trochinski testified that he understood the elements of the offense, and that he knew the photos were harmful and were ‘totally inappropriate’ for children.”

Court stresses that defendant need know “only knowledge of the elements of the offense, not a knowledge of the nuances and descriptions of the elements.” ¶29.

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