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State v. Stevens

Supreme Court of Maine

February 16, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
JOHN P. STEVENS

          Submitted On Briefs: January 19, 2017

          N. Seth Levy, Esq., Brunswick, for appellant John P. Stevens

          The State of Maine did not file a brief

          SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          MEAD, J.

         [¶1] John P. Stevens appeals from a judgment of conviction entered by the trial court (Kennebec County, Jabar, J.) following his guilty plea to a charge of receiving stolen property (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. § 359(1)(B)(6) (2016). Stevens contends that in order to establish that his plea was voluntary as required by M.R.U. Crim. P. 11(b)(2), the court was required to ask him if he was aware of, and understood the consequences of, any plea negotiations that may have preceded his plea. Because Stevens did not move to withdraw his unconditional guilty plea, and does not contend that the trial court lacked jurisdiction or that it imposed an unconstitutional sentence, we dismiss the appeal.

          I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

         [¶2] The July 2015 indictment charging Stevens with receiving stolen property was based on an allegation that he sold copper wire belonging to Central Maine Power Company knowing or believing that it had been stolen. See 17-A M.R.S. § 359(1)(A) (2016). On the day of his trial, with a jury selected, Stevens, assisted by counsel, unconditionally changed his plea to guilty. The court conducted an inquiry pursuant to M.R.U. Crim. P. 11 and accepted the open plea, [1] which Stevens never moved to withdraw. At the sentencing hearing six weeks later, the court entered judgment and sentenced Stevens to four years imprisonment. Stevens also pleaded guilty to four separately-charged misdemeanors and received concurrent sentences. He then appealed.

         [¶3] The State filed an untimely brief and moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground that Stevens cannot take a direct appeal from his guilty plea absent a challenge to the courts jurisdiction or the constitutionality of his punishment. Stevens objected to the late filing and to the motion to dismiss. We rejected the States brief and ordered that the motion to dismiss be considered with the merits of the appeal.

         3

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶4] A threshold issue before reaching the merits of Stevenss appeal is whether we will grant the States motion to dismiss. More than twenty years ago we held that

[n]o direct appeal . . . asserting errors in the determination of criminal guilt may be taken from a conviction after a guilty plea (other than a conditional guilty plea . . .), except on grounds of jurisdiction or excessive, cruel or unusual punishment, because there is no decision by the court to appeal from. Challenges to a conviction after a guilty plea on grounds of involuntariness of the plea, lack of knowledgeability on the part of the defendant regarding the consequences of his plea, ineffective assistance of counsel, misrepresentation, coercion or duress in securing the plea, the insanity of the pleader, or noncompliance with the requirements of M.R. Crim. P. 11[2] are collateral and may be pursued only by post-conviction review....

State v. Huntley, 676 A.2d 501, 503 (Me. 1996) (citations omitted). See alsoState v. Pfeil,1998 ME 245, ¶ 7, 720 A.2d 573 ("The reason that post-conviction review is appropriate and that an adequate review cannot be held on direct appeal is ... [that] an evidentiary hearing is necessary to develop a record from which a court can determine whether the pleas were made knowingly and voluntarily."). Because the defendant in Huntley did not challenge the trial courts jurisdiction and did not assert ...


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