Direct or Collateral? The District Court’s Duty to Establish a Knowingly Made Plea

Hailey Reed, Staff Editor

State v. Wallace, No. 123,763, (Kan. Ct. App. Aug. 19, 2022) 

Issue:  Did the district court violate defendant’s right to due process when it entered defendant’s nolo contendere plea to a felony without first warning him about the probable loss of voting or firearm-possession rights?

Answer:  No.  When a defendant enters a nolo contendere plea to a felony charge, collateral consequences include losing the right to vote and the right to posses a firearm. Accordingly, failure to warn the defendant that he will lose these rights does not violate due process.

Facts:  Justin Wayne Wallace was charged with felony burglary, felony aggravated battery, felony criminal damage to property, and felony criminal threat.  The State offered Wallace a plea deal where the State would dismiss or amend three of his charges, so long as he pled nolo contendere to several of them.  The court explained the trial rights Wallace would waive by entering the plea and Wallace subsequently agreed to the deal.  However, two weeks later Wallace moved to withdraw the pleas and alleged innocence.  Wallace argued that because he was not informed of the potential to lose his right to vote or possess a firearm, he did not knowingly and voluntarily enter into his plea agreement.  The district court denied the motion and Wallace made the same arguments on appeal.

Discussion:  Wallace was not denied due process even though he entered into a plea agreement without knowing that he could lose voting and firearm-possession rights.  Under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3210(a)(2), Kansas district courts only have a duty to inform a defendant of direct consequences of their plea.  Potential government restrictions are collateral consequences because they are not a direct and immediate result of the plea.  In its opinion, the Kansas Court of Appeals discussed United States v. Muhammad. While Muhammad discussed federal law, the Tenth Circuit found restrictions on firearm ownership to be a collateral consequence.[1]  Although the specific issues raised by Wallace have not been determined by the Kansas Supreme Court, its prior decisions and the analogous facts in the Tenth Circuit decision indicate that the loss of voting and firearm-possession rights are collateral consequences of a plea agreement.  Indeed, neither consequence is a direct consequence of a plea because neither consequence is immediate, definite, nor automatic result of the plea.   Additionally, both consequences require a separate government intervention.  Thus, the district court had no duty to inform Wallace prior to the nolo contendere plea and did not violate Wallace’s due process rights.

Key Authorities:  State v. Moody, 144 P.3d 612, 622–623 (2006) (holding district courts have no duty to inform defendants on the collateral consequences not directly resulting from the criminal offense); United States v. Muhammad, 747 F.3d 1234, 1240 (10th Cir. 2014); Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3210(a)(2) (2021).

[1] United States v. Muhammad, 747 F.3d 1234, 1240 (10th Cir. 2014) (discussing collateral consequences outside the requirements of a voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly made plea).

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