Plea found to be voluntary despite different drug

Shane PuckettVolume 50 Articles Editor

JUDGE KEASLER DELIVERED THE OPINION FOR THE COURT.

The issue in this case was whether a defendant, who pleaded guilty to the delivery of cocaine, was entitled to habeas relief when subsequent laboratory tests confirmed that he actually delivered methamphetamine.

In Ex parte Broussard, Broussard pleaded guilty to the delivery of cocaine. After entering into a plea agreement, subsequent laboratory tests revealed that Broussard possessed methamphetamine. Broussard filed a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that his plea was involuntary and that his conviction violated Due Process. The Court of Criminal Appeals ultimately denied habeas relief and held that Broussard had sufficient awareness of the applicable law in relation to the facts surrounding his case. As a result, his plea was deemed voluntary.

In order for a guilty plea to be valid, it must be entered into knowingly and voluntarily. Further, a defendant must have an understanding of the law applicable to the facts surrounding his or her plea.  Sufficient awareness, rather than complete awareness, of the facts surrounding the plea is required. Even if some facts remain unknown to the defendant and he or she incorrectly calculates the strength of the State’s case, a plea may still be deemed voluntary.

Here, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied habeas relief and held that the guilty plea was entered into voluntarily. The Court reasoned that Broussard pleaded guilty, knowing that the laboratory had yet to confirm that the substance he possessed was in fact cocaine. As a result, Broussard merely incorrectly calculated the State’s ability to prove that he possessed cocaine. Further, this was simply a misapprehension of a pertinent fact that occurred because Broussard wanted to avoid the risks involved at trial.

The dissent primarily asserted that the laboratory report, which showed an absence of cocaine, should be considered as evidence of innocence for the offense of which Broussard was convicted. As a result, Broussard should be entitled to habeas relief.

Ex parte Broussard, No. WR-83,014-01 (Tex. Apr. 12, 2017).