Polk County District Court File No. 60-CR-12-557
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and
Greg Widseth, Polk County Attorney, Crookston, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jennifer Lauermann, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Stauber, Judge.
In this direct appeal from his conviction of third-degree burglary, appellant argues that this court should permit him to withdraw his Alford plea because no district court transcript exists of the guilty-plea hearing and, therefore, no one can ascertain whether his plea was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. Appellant also moved to strike portions of respondent's brief and appendix. We grant appellant's motion to strike and affirm.
In the early morning of March 15, 2012, someone discovered appellant Paul Steichen sleeping in the office area of the Boardwalk Bar and Grill Banquet Room in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. Upon arriving at the scene, a police officer saw an open bottle of wine with wine missing on the floor next to Steichen. Respondent State of Minnesota charged Steichen with third-degree burglary, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 3 (2010). Steichen entered an Alford plea to the charge of third-degree burglary. The record contains no written plea petition, and no transcript of the plea exists.
On July 20, Steichen appeared for sentencing. Steichen's presumptive sentence for the third-degree-burglary offense was a stayed sentence of 15 months. But Steichen also faced charges of contempt and terroristic threats in a separate case, and the state made Steichen an offer involving the third-degree-burglary charge and the other pending charges. If Steichen would agree to an executed 15-month sentence for the third-degree-burglary offense and plead guilty to the contempt charge, the state would dismiss the terroristic-threats charge. After the parties discussed the state's offer at length, Steichen accepted the offer, and the district court sentenced Steichen to an executed 15-month sentence for third-degree burglary.
Steichen filed a direct appeal and requested the district court plea and sentencing transcripts. Steichen obtained the sentencing transcript that is part of the record before us, but no recording of Steichen's plea hearing could be located and therefore no transcript exists.
A defendant has the right to challenge his guilty plea on direct appeal even if he has not moved to withdraw the plea in district court. State v. Anyanwu, 681 N.W.2d 411, 413 (Minn.App. 2004). "A defendant has no absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea after entering it." State v. Raleigh, 778 N.W.2d 90, 93 (Minn. 2010). After conviction and sentencing, a court "must allow" a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea to correct a manifest injustice. Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1. "A manifest injustice occurs when a guilty plea is invalid." Campos v. State, 816 N.W.2d 480, 507 (Minn. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 938 (2013). "To be constitutionally valid, a guilty plea must be accurate, voluntary, and intelligent." Raleigh, 778 N.W.2d at 94. "The defendant bears the burden to establish that his plea ...