Guilty Plea must be voluntary McCarthy v. United States, 89 S. Ct. 1166, 1171 (1969)
A guilty plea that is not voluntary and knowing violates due process and thus is constitutionally defective. McCarthy v. United States, 89 S. Ct. 1166, 1171 (1969)
Petitioner was indicted on three counts for "willfully and knowingly" attempting to evade federal tax payments and on arraignment pleaded not guilty to each count. On the day set for trial petitioner's counsel, after informing the court that he had "advised . . . [petitioner] of the consequences of a plea," moved to enter a plea of guilty to one count. In answer to the District Judge's inquiry, petitioner stated that he desired to plead guilty and understood that such a plea waived his right to a jury trial and subjected him to as long as five years' imprisonment and as much as a $10,000 fine.
The Government consented to the plea change and agreed to dismiss the other two counts if petitioner's guilty plea to the one count was accepted. Replying to the judge's inquiry made at the Government's request and before the plea was accepted, petitioner stated that his plea was not the product of threats or promises, but was entered of his "own volition." At the subsequent sentencing hearing, petitioner asserted that his failure to pay taxes was "not deliberate," and that they would have been paid had he not been in poor health. The judge imposed a sentence of one year and a $2,500 fine. Petitioner's counsel moved to suspend sentence, stressing that petitioner, then 65, was in poor health and that his "neglectful" and "inadvertent" bookkeeping practices occurred during a period when he had been suffering from a very serious drinking problem.
The judge, declining to suspend sentence, indicated that he had examined the presentence report and concluded that petitioner's bookkeeping methods were not "inadvertent." On appeal, petitioner urged the setting aside of his plea as violative of Fed.Rule Crim.Proc. 11 on the grounds (1) that the District Court had accepted his plea "without first addressing [him] . . . personally and determining that the plea [was] . . . made voluntarily with understanding of the nature of the charge . . . ,"
and (2) that the court had entered judgment without determining "that there [was] . . . a factual basis for the plea." The Court of Appeals affirmed, implying that the Rule did not require the District Judge to address petitioner personally if petitioner understood the nature of the charge and concluding that, at the sentencing hearing the judge had satisfied himself from the presentence report that the plea had a factual basis.
1. Fed.Rule Crim.Proc. 11 was not complied with in this case. The Rule, which is designed (1) to assist the district judge in making the constitutionally required determination that a guilty plea is truly voluntary and (2) to produce a complete record when the plea is entered of the factors relevant to the voluntariness determination, mandates the district judge's direct inquiry of a defendant pleading guilty as to whether the defendant understands the nature of the charge against him and is aware of the consequences of his plea.
2. Noncompliance by the District Court with Rule 11 requires that the defendant's guilty plea be set aside and his case remanded for another hearing at which he may plead anew.
A defendant's understanding of the nature of the charges, the consequences of a guilty plea and its voluntariness should be "determined only by considering all of the relevant circumstances surrounding it." Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 749, 90 S. Ct. 1463, 1469, 25 L. Ed.2d 747, 757 (1976).