Incorrect Information About Sentencing Provided to the Defendant by the Court and Counsel Warranted Vacating the Plea In the Absence of Preservation
The Fourth Department concluded that wrong information provided to the defendant about sentencing required vacation of the plea, in the absence of preservation by a motion to withdraw the plea. The defendant was wrongly told by the court and counsel that his sentences on the instant offense and an unrelated offense would necessarily run consecutively. Because there was no way to expect defendant to know the information was incorrect, the error need not be preserved by a motion to withdraw the plea. Because the plea was based upon complete confusion by all concerned, the plea was vacated:
We agree with defendant, however, that his plea should be vacated on the ground that it was not voluntarily, knowingly or intelligently entered based on the mistaken understanding of the legally required sentence shared by County Court and counsel. Although defendant failed to preserve his contention for our review …, we conclude that the narrow exception to the preservation requirement applies … . Here, it is clear from the face of the record that the prosecutor incorrectly stated that the sentence on the instant conviction must run consecutively to the sentence imposed on an unrelated conviction, when in fact that was not the case because the instant offense occurred prior to the unrelated conviction (see generally Penal Law § 70.25). It is equally clear that this error was not corrected by defense counsel or the trial court. Thus, preservation was not required “[i]nasmuch as defendant—due to the inaccurate advice of his counsel and the trial court—did not know during the plea . . . proceedings” that consecutive sentences were not required by law … . ” [D]efendant [could] hardly be expected to move to withdraw his plea on a ground of which he ha[d] no knowledge’ ” … . Even assuming, arguendo, that the narrow exception to the preservation requirement is inapplicable, we would nevertheless exercise our power to address defendant’s contention as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice (see CPL 470.15  [c]).
On the merits, we conclude that defendant’s plea should be vacated because “[i]t is impossible to have confidence, on a record like this, that defendant had a clear understanding of what he was doing when he entered his plea,” based on the prosecutor’s erroneous statement that [*2]consecutive sentences were required and the failure of the court or defense counsel to correct that error. We “cannot countenance a conviction that seems to be based on complete confusion by all concerned” … . People v Brooks, 2015 NY Slip Op 03969, 4th Dept 5-8-15