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State of South Dakota v. Adam Olson

June 27, 2012

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE,
v.
ADAM OLSON, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT TRIPP COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE KATHLEEN F. TRANDAHL Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Severson, Justice

CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON MARCH 17, 2012

[¶1.] Adam Olson entered into a plea agreement with the State, under the terms of which he pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft and one count of aggravated eluding of a law enforcement officer. Olson also admitted to being a habitual offender. In addition, Olson pleaded guilty to an additional count of grand theft, which the State charged him with, in a separate Information. Olson later filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. The circuit court denied his motion and sentenced Olson to fifteen years for the grand theft conviction and two years for the aggravated eluding of a law enforcement officer conviction. Olson's sentence for aggravated eluding of a law enforcement officer was to run consecutive to his sentence for grand theft. The court also sentenced Olson to serve ten years for the grand theft conviction that was charged in the separate Information. This sentence was to be served consecutive to Olson's other sentences. Olson appeals, raising the following issues: (1) whether the circuit court abused its discretion in denying Olson's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas; (2) whether Olson's sentences constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

[¶2.] In Tripp County File 10-156, the State filed an Information charging Olson with one count of third-degree burglary, five counts of grand theft, and one count of aggravated eluding of a law enforcement officer. The State asserted that Olson committed these crimes on November 15, 2010. The State also filed a Part II Information, alleging Olson was a habitual offender. The charge of third-degree burglary was later dismissed.

[¶3.] In Tripp County File 11-12, the State filed a separate Information charging Olson with two counts of grand theft. These charges arose from an incident that occurred on July 29, 2010.

[¶4.] Olson was arraigned on the charges for both files in January 2011.

During the arraignment hearing, the circuit court explained to Olson the elements of the crimes he was charged with, as well as each of his constitutional rights. The circuit court then advised Olson: "[I]f you plead guilty to these charges, you would be found guilty, just as if you had a trial, and you would be giving up the rights I have just gone over with you." The circuit court asked Olson if he understood his rights and the charges against him. He indicated that he did. Olson pleaded not guilty to each of the charges.

[¶5.] Olson later entered into a written plea agreement with the State. The terms of the plea agreement specified that, for the Information filed in Tripp County File 10-156, Olson would plead guilty to one count of grand theft and one count of aggravated eluding of a law enforcement officer. Olson also agreed to admit to a Part II Information alleging that he had been previously convicted of grand theft on August 24, 2005. In exchange, the State agreed to dismiss all remaining charges in Tripp County File 10-156. For the Information filed in Tripp County File 11-12, Olson agreed to plead guilty to one count of grand theft, and the State agreed to dismiss the remaining count of grand theft.

[¶6.] A change of plea hearing was held in February 2011. During this hearing, the circuit court again explained to Olson the elements of the crimes he was charged with and each of his constitutional rights. Olson indicated that he understood the charges and his rights. The circuit court also advised Olson that if he entered a plea of guilty to any of the charges, he would waive his constitutional rights. Olson indicated that he understood.

[¶7.] The circuit court then inquired as to the events that took place November 15, 2010. Olson admitted that he and other individuals entered the parking lot of Grossenburg Implement in Tripp County and loaded a 2010 John Deere Gater onto a trailer. The trailer was attached to a truck that Olson drove away from the scene. Olson testified that a police officer began pursuing him after he left Grossenburg Implement. Olson drove approximately two or three miles and eluded the officer. He stated that he then "ditched the trailer" and "went home." The circuit court found that there was a sufficient factual basis to support Olson's guilty pleas for the charges of grand theft and aggravated eluding of a law enforcement officer in Tripp County File 10-156. The court accepted Olson's guilty pleas for these charges.

[¶8.] The circuit court then addressed the factual basis for the Part II Information, which alleged that Olson was a habitual offender. Olson admitted that he was convicted of grand theft on August 24, 2005 in Aurora County, South Dakota. The circuit court found that there was a sufficient factual basis for this charge.

[¶9.] Finally, the circuit court inquired as to the events that took place July 29, 2010. Olson admitted that he and other individuals broke into Grossenburg Implement through the front gate and stole a Honda generator. After canvassing Olson regarding the details of the incident, the circuit court found that there was a sufficient factual basis to support Olson's plea of guilty to the charge of grand theft in Tripp County File 11-12. The court accepted Olson's plea of guilty as to this charge.

[¶10.] Olson later filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. The circuit court held a hearing on Olson's motion in July 2011. During the hearing, Olson testified that he suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder and was not taking medication for this condition at the time he entered his pleas. Olson also testified that he pleaded guilty to the charges because his father pressured him to do so. According to Olson, at the time he entered his guilty pleas, his father was in very poor health due to cancer and a back injury.

[¶11.] Olson initially testified that he did not remember the circuit court reviewing his constitutional rights during the plea hearing. Later in his testimony, however, Olson seemed to admit that he remembered the court reviewing his constitutional rights. Nonetheless, Olson contended that he did not understand the rights he gave up by pleading guilty:

Q: So, when the Judge asked you if you understood those rights, and you said yes, were you telling the truth?

A: No.

Q: Why didn't you just tell the court that you didn't understand those rights?

A: Because I didn't want everybody to think I'm an idiot.

Q: And why didn't you tell me as your attorney that you didn't understand those rights?

A: I don't know. It was just really fast pace, and everything just moves really fast, and I have a tendency just to answer the questions as short as possible.

[¶12.] Olson testified that he did not understand the charges against him and, in particular, he did not understand the Part II Information. He further testified that when he provided the factual basis to the circuit court, he merely recited facts he read off of a police report prior to the hearing.

[¶13.] The circuit court found that Olson's testimony was not credible. The court also found that the advisement of rights was sufficient and that Olson's plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily. Olson's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas was denied.

[¶14.] Olson was sentenced in September 2011. For the charge of grand theft in Tripp County File 10-156, Olson was sentenced to 15 years in prison. For the charge of aggravated eluding of a law enforcement officer, Olson was sentenced to two years in prison, which was to be served consecutive to the sentence for the charge of grand theft in Tripp County File 10-156.

[¶15.] For the charge of grand theft in Tripp County File 11-12, Olson was sentenced to ten years in prison. This sentence was to be served consecutive to Olson's other sentences.

DISCUSSION

[¶16.] 1. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion in denying Olson's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas

[¶17.] Olson argues that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying his request to withdraw his guilty pleas. SDCL 23A-27-11 provides:

A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere may be made only before sentence is imposed or imposition of sentence is suspended; but to correct manifest injustice a court after sentence may set aside a judgment of conviction and permit the defendant to withdraw his plea.

[¶18.] "The withdrawal of a guilty plea before the imposition of sentence is within the sound discretion of the [circuit] court." State v. Wahle, 521 N.W.2d 134, 137 (S.D. 1994) (quoting State v. Grosh, 387 N.W.2d 503, 505 (S.D. 1986)). When a defendant moves to withdraw a plea prior to sentencing, a court should exercise its discretion liberally in favor of withdrawal. Id. (quoting Grosh, 387 N.W.2d at 505- 06). But "SDCL 23A-27-11 does not create an automatic right to withdraw a guilty plea." State v. Thielsen, 2004 S.D. 17, ¶ 15, 675 N.W.2d 429, 433 (citing State v. Engelmann, 541 N.W.2d 96, 100 (S.D. 1995)). "When deciding whether to allow a criminal defendant to withdraw his plea, the [circuit] court must look at the reasons why the plea is sought to be withdrawn and if the request to withdraw is obviously frivolous, the circuit court need not grant it." Wahle, 521 N.W.2d at 137 (quoting Grosh, 387 N.W.2d at 506) (emphasis omitted).

[¶19.] Olson alleges that the circuit court should have allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because the plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. "[A] plea is intelligent and voluntary when the accused has a full understanding of his constitutional rights and, having that understanding, waives [those] rights by a plea of guilty." State v. Beckley, 2007 S.D. 122, ¶ 8, 742 N.W.2d 841, 843 (quoting Lodermeier v. State, 273 N.W.2d 163, 164 (S.D. 1978)). We have explained, In Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 242, 89 S. Ct. 1709, 1712, 23 L. Ed. 2d 274 (1969), the United States Supreme Court recognized that "a plea of guilty is more than an admission of conduct; it is a conviction." Therefore, it is critical not only that a defendant be advised of his rights relating to self- incrimination, trial by jury, and confrontation, but also that the defendant intentionally relinquish or abandon known rights.

Monette v. Weber, 2009 S.D. 77, ¶ 10, 771 N.W.2d 920, 924 (citing Boykin, 395 U.S. at 243 n.5, 89 S. Ct. at 1712 n.5).

[¶20.] "The record must show in some manner that the defendant understood his rights in order for the defendant's plea to be entered intelligently and voluntarily." State v. Apple, 2008 S.D. 120, ¶ 10, 759 N.W.2d 283, 287 (citing Beckley, 2007 S.D. 122, ¶ 10, 742 N.W.2d at 844)). "[W]e look to 'the totality of the circumstances when ascertaining whether a plea was made knowingly and voluntarily.'" Beckley, 2007 S.D. 122, ¶ 14, 742 N.W.2d at 846 (quoting State v. Goodwin, 2004 S.D. 75, ¶ 11, 681 N.W.2d 847, 852). "In examining the 'totality of the circumstances' we have taken into consideration the following factors: the defendant's age; his prior criminal record; whether he is represented by counsel; the existence of a plea agreement; and the time between advisement of rights and entering a plea of guilty." Id. (quoting Goodwin, 2004 S.D. 75, ¶ 11, 681 N.W.2d at 852).

[¶21.] Olson was twenty-four years old at the time he was sentenced. He had previous experience with the criminal justice system as a juvenile and an adult. Olson was represented by counsel at each stage of the proceedings. During the change of plea hearing, he indicated that he was content with his legal counsel. He also indicated that he had sufficient time to discuss the charges he was facing with his legal counsel.*fn1 During both the arraignment hearing and the change of plea hearing, the circuit court explained to Olson each of his constitutional rights. In fact, the court reviewed with Olson each of his constitutional rights immediately prior to Olson's entry of his guilty pleas. Olson repeatedly indicated that he understood the rights he was giving up by pleading guilty. These facts support the circuit court's finding that Olson entered his guilty pleas knowingly and voluntarily.

Misapprehension of the facts

[¶22.] Olson entered into a written plea agreement with the State. Part of the agreement specified that, for the Information in Tripp County File 10-156, Olson would plead guilty to one count of grand theft and one count of aggravated eluding of a law enforcement officer. Olson also agreed to admit to the Part II Information, which alleged that he had been previously convicted of grand theft in Aurora County on August 24, 2005. In exchange, the State dismissed all remaining charges in Tripp County File 10-156. The plea agreement specified that the charges Olson was facing included "[f]ive counts of Grand Theft . . . a Class Four (4) Felony, each count punishable by a maximum of ten (10) years in the penitentiary and a fine of $20,000.00." Although Olson signed the plea agreement, he argues that he did not understand he had been charged with five separate counts of grand theft. Olson argues that he thought he could only be charged with one count of grand theft for the November incident.

[¶23.] We have previously stated, "In plea hearings, the record must demonstrate that defendants not only understand the constitutional and statutory rights they are waiving by pleading guilty, but also fully understand the charges for which they are admitting guilt." State v. Nachtigall, 2007 S.D. 109, ¶ 9, 741 N.W.2d 216, 220. In this case, after reviewing the record in its entirety, we hold that the circuit court did not ...


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