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State v. Sunseri

Supreme Court of Idaho

October 31, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
NICHOLAS BRIAN SUNSERI, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County, Hon. Cynthia K.C. Meyer, District Judge.

         The decision of the district court is reversed and remanded with instructions.

          Bolton Law, PLLC, Coeur d'Alene, for Appellant. Katherine J. Bolton argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for Respondent. Theodore S. Tollefson argued.

          HORTON, Justice.

         Nicholas Brian Sunseri appeals from the decision of the district court affirming the magistrate court's order denying Sunseri's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. We reverse the decision of the district court and remand with instructions.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Sunseri was arrested on Friday, April 15, 2016, and charged by uniform citation with two misdemeanors: domestic violence committed in the presence of a child, a violation of Idaho Code section 19-918(4), and interfering with a 911 call, a violation of Idaho Code section 18-6810. On Monday, April 18, 2016, Sunseri was in custody when he made his first appearance before the magistrate court. The magistrate court advised Sunseri of his rights and the potential penalties associated with the charges he faced.

         The Coeur d'Alene City Attorney's Office had previously lodged[1] with the magistrate court a document styled as "Waiver of Appearance," in which it waived the right to be present and advised the magistrate court of its plea offer to Sunseri. At his first appearance, the magistrate court advised Sunseri[2] of the State's offer to dismiss the charge of interfering with a 911 call[3] in exchange for his guilty plea to the charge of domestic battery in the presence of a child. The State further agreed to recommend that Sunseri receive a 180 day jail sentence, with 177 days suspended, a $300 fine, and that he be placed on unsupervised probation for two years, contingent on his compliance with the recommended treatment from a combined domestic violence/substance abuse evaluation. The Waiver of Appearance further recommended that bond be set at $3, 000 and that Sunseri be ordered to have no contact with his alleged victim.

         Although Sunseri had not met with an attorney to discuss the offer, the magistrate court advised Sunseri of the terms of the State's plea offer. Sunseri responded that he understood and accepted the offer. Sunseri then waived his right to counsel and entered a plea of guilty to domestic violence in the presence of a child. The magistrate court then entered a no contact order and released Sunseri on his own recognizance after Sunseri signed his acknowledgement of receipt of the no contact order. Three days later, the magistrate court entered an order scheduling sentencing for July 29, 2016.

         Thereafter, Sunseri consulted with an attorney and learned that his guilty plea would result in a loss of his right to possess firearms and ammunition by operation of 18 U.S.C. section 922(g)(9). More than six weeks prior to his scheduled sentencing date, Sunseri moved to withdraw his guilty plea. He filed an affidavit in support of his motion in which he stated that he found the plea offer to be "very appealing because it made it likely I would be immediately released from jail and be able to return to my job." He indicated that he pled guilty because he "wanted to return to work and did not want to lose my job." Most pertinent to this appeal, he explained that he wished to withdraw his plea of guilty because: "I was not advised that a consequence of my guilty plea was a lifetime ban on my right to own and possess firearms and ammunition. This right is very important to me. Had I known I would lose this important right, I would not have pled guilty."

         The magistrate court denied Sunseri's motion, finding that Sunseri had not shown just cause for withdrawal of his guilty plea. Specifically, the magistrate found that the loss of gun rights was a collateral consequence of the guilty plea and, because defendants are not required to be apprised of collateral consequences in order for their plea to be considered voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently entered, held that Sunseri had not offered a just reason to withdraw his plea. The district court affirmed on the same basis. Sunseri timely appealed.

         II. ...


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