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Plea-Withdrawal, Pre-Sentencing – Trial Court Anticipates Not Following Plea Bargain

State v. Adrian L. Williams, 2000 WI 78, 236 Wis. 2d 293, 613 N.W.2d 132, affirming unpublished decision of court of appeals
For Williams: Ellen Henak, SPD, Milwaukee Appellate

Issue: Whether “this court [should] adopt a new rule of procedure, which would require that if a trial judge anticipates exceeding the state’s sentence recommendation under a plea agreement, the trial judge must inform the defendant of that fact and allow the defendant to withdraw his or her plea.” ¶1.


¶2 We decline Williams’ invitation to create a new rule and instead adhere to the well-established law of this state. In Wisconsin, a trial court is not bound by the state’s sentence recommendation under a plea agreement. Before entering a plea, the defendant is informed of and understands that the sentence recommendation he or she has bargained for is not binding on the court. Under this procedure, ‘failure to receive sentence concessions contemplated by a plea agreement is [not] a basis for withdrawing a guilty plea on the grounds of manifest injustice.’ Melby v. State, 70 Wis. 2d 368, 385, 234 N.W.2d 634 (1975) (citing Young v. State, 49 Wis. 2d 361, 367 182 N.W.2d 262 (1971)). Because no manifest injustice occurred, Williams is not entitled to withdraw his plea.

See, esp. ¶26, cautioning trial court abstention from influencing the decision to enter into a plea agreement, and indicating that the proposed rule would violate this proscription and “would undermine the voluntariness of the plea.”


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