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Maddux v. District of Columbia

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

July 25, 2019

Chauncey Leroy MADDUX, Appellant,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Appellee.

         Argued October 25, 2017

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          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CTF-21767-13) (Hon. Elizabeth C. Wingo, Magistrate Judge; Hon. Ann O’Regan Keary, Reviewing Judge)

         Benjamin Miller, Public Defender Service, with whom Samia Fam, Shilpa S. Satoskar, and Fleming Terrell, Public Defender Service, were on the brief, for appellant.

         Janice Y. Sheppard, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General at the time the brief was filed, and Rosalyn Calbert Groce, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee.

         Before Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge, Glickman, Associate Judge, and Washington, Senior Judge.

         OPINION

         Glickman, Associate Judge

         Chauncey Maddux appeals the denial of his post-sentence motion to withdraw his guilty plea to one count of driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug (DUI). To prevail, he must demonstrate that permitting his plea to stand will result in manifest injustice.

         Mr. Maddux’s central claim of such injustice is that the magistrate judge "supplanted the plea bargaining process and coerced him to plead guilty by threatening that she would exercise her discretion to detain him if he stuck by his decision to go to trial, signaling that his only way to avoid that penalty would be to resolve the case via a guilty plea."[1] Mr. Maddux asserts his "plea was coerced not because of the inherently coercive difference between detention and release, but because of the judge’s outsized role in creating a coercive situation by sending Mr. Maddux an unmistakable message about the looming penalty she would impose if he went to trial as compared to the benefit she would allow him to enjoy (immediate release) if he took her advice to enter a guilty plea."[2] As we shall see, this is all nouveau appellate hyperbole; Mr. Maddux did not claim such judicial overreaching and coercion in the proceedings below, and the record does not support that claim. Furthermore, that Mr. Maddux would not have pleaded guilty but for his desire not to be detained does not mean his plea was coerced or involuntary. As Mr. Maddux concedes, there was no impropriety in his pretrial detention; it was a result of his continuing

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drug use and his failure to appear in court as and when required.

          Mr. Maddux also argues that the magistrate judge’s asserted involvement with his plea negotiations made his plea manifestly unjust even if it did not render his plea involuntary. This claim also was not made in the proceedings below. It is unpersuasive; the judge did not participate in the plea negotiations or pressure Mr. Maddux to enter into them, and she did not advise him to plead guilty or tell him he would be better off if he did.

          Lastly, reprising the claim he did make below, Mr. Maddux argues that his guilty plea is manifestly unjust because the judge failed to ensure it was voluntary by inquiring whether his sole reason for pleading guilty was to avoid pretrial detention. We disagree. That Mr. Maddux’s reason for pleading guilty was to avoid detention did not render his plea involuntary or indicate to the judge the need to probe further after her complete and thorough inquiry in which he assured her that his plea was voluntary.

          Because we reject Mr. Maddux’s claims and conclude he has not shown manifest injustice in the acceptance of his guilty plea, we affirm the denial of his motion to withdraw it.

          I.

         The facts giving rise to the charges against Mr. Maddux, as proffered by the government when he pleaded guilty, are not in dispute. Shortly after midnight on November 25, 2013, Mr. Maddux was involved in a single-car accident in which he drove off the road and crashed into a fence. The police officer called to the scene found Mr. Maddux to be confused and disoriented. The officer noticed a nearly empty bottle of vodka next to Mr. Maddux on the front passenger seat of the vehicle. At the police station, Mr. Maddux displayed multiple "clues of impairment" on three field sobriety tests. ...


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