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State of Idaho v. Tara Jean Crist

August 29, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Cassia County. Hon. Michael R. Crabtree, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gutierrez, Judge

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

2012 Unpublished Opinion No. 610


Judgment of conviction for possession of a controlled substance, affirmed.

Tara Jean Crist appeals from her judgment of conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Specifically, she asserts the district court erred by denying her motion to withdraw her guilty plea. We affirm.



On January 23, 2010, a law enforcement officer initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle, in which Crist was a passenger. Crist exited the vehicle after the driver pulled over to the side of the road. The officer directed Crist to return to the vehicle and she complied. The officer noticed Crist appeared anxious and had bloodshot, glossy eyes. Upon the officer's questioning regarding drugs, the driver revealed there was a pipe in the vehicle. The officer searched the inside of the vehicle and located drug paraphernalia and a small quantity of methamphetamine.

The driver admitted ownership of the methamphetamine. An additional search around the area where Crist had exited the vehicle produced a small pouch containing another quantity of methamphetamine and a receipt from a local store. Upon investigation, a clerk at that store, who had been working at the time the receipt was printed, positively identified Crist from a photo line-up as the person who had been in the store. As further evidence tending to show the pouch containing methamphetamine belonged to Crist, the driver indicated in an interview with police that she and Crist had consumed methamphetamine prior to the traffic stop and that when Crist got back into the vehicle upon the officer's request during the traffic stop, Crist had stated to the driver, "I just got rid of mine." The driver understood this to mean that Crist had just disposed of her (Crist's) methamphetamine. Crist later tested positive for methamphetamine.

The State charged Crist with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Subsequently, Crist decided to enter an Alford*fn1 plea to the charge of possession of a controlled substance pursuant to a plea offer, and the State agreed to dismiss the other charge and recommend drug court. At the plea hearing, the judge was careful to explain, and Crist acknowledged, that she was not required to plead guilty and could proceed to trial. Crist was very emotional, but decided to go forward with the plea. Among other issues discussed at the hearing, the court explained an Alford plea, asked if Crist was pleading guilty because she did not want to risk losing the plea offer and advantage of drug court (to which Crist replied affirmatively), and again reiterated Crist was not obligated to plead guilty but could proceed to trial. The court recognized Crist's emotional state and granted recesses to Crist when necessary so she could consult with her attorney, compose herself, and "think about things." The court said it would "try to find a time [in the] afternoon to resume, if [she] wish[ed]." Ultimately, Crist pled guilty on an Alford plea after the court explained the validity of the plea, the possible penalties for possession of a controlled substance, and the procedure for gaining acceptance into drug court, and conducted a colloquy with Crist in order to ensure she understood her rights and waivers.

Two days after entry of the plea, Crist was scheduled to attend drug court. However, she was late to the appointment and, thereafter, the drug court would not accept her as a participant.

The district court set the case for sentencing and ordered a presentence investigation (PSI) report. At the sentencing hearing, defense counsel informed the court that Crist had not reviewed the PSI report and might wish to change her plea to not guilty. Crist arrived late to the sentencing hearing and consulted with her counsel. Defense counsel informed the court after the consultation that Crist wished to seek new representation and withdrawal of her guilty plea. As no motion had yet been filed, and defense counsel had not yet been discharged, the court scheduled a date to continue the sentencing hearing.

At the continued sentencing hearing, defense counsel informed the court that he met with Crist, let her review the PSI report, and believed she was ready to proceed with sentencing. However, when the court asked Crist if she was ready to proceed, she stated that she wanted to withdraw her plea and take the case to trial. The court permitted defense counsel to withdraw from representation and appointed a public defender for Crist. Through new defense counsel, Crist filed a motion to withdraw her plea. The reason Crist cited in support of the motion to withdraw her plea was that she no longer wished to accept the plea offer, but wanted to proceed to trial. At the evidentiary hearing on the motion to withdraw Crist's plea, defense counsel argued that Crist presented a just reason to withdraw her plea due to her mental state and the pressure from her former counsel to plead, and he called Crist to testify. Crist testified that the day she entered her Alford plea, she felt her former defense counsel did not have time for her case, he was unwilling to talk about aspects of the case beyond a single State witness, and she did not have the money that former counsel demanded in order to take her case to trial. She also proffered family and emotional issues that were ...

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