Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rule 11 Doesn't Require Notice of Loss of Benefits

US v. Nicholson: Nicholson was charged with federal workers comp fraud and entered a guilty plea.  Prior to sentencing, Nicholson asked to withdraw his plea on several grounds, including that he was under the influence of prescription pain killers at the time and "credibly asserting his legal innocence."  Although the item that spurred him to move to withdraw his plea was a letter from the government "terminating all future benefits and wages," that was not among the grounds cited as a basis to withdraw the plea.  The district court denied the motion to withdraw and sentenced Nicholson to probation.

On appeal, Nicholson raised several issues with regards to his plea, all of which the Fourth Circuit rejected.  First, the court concluded (applying plain error) that there was no violation of Rule 11 by the district court when it failed to explain to Nicholson that a conviction would make him ineligible for future benefits because that was a collateral, not direct, consequence of his conviction.  Second, the court concluded that the district court conducted an adequate inquiry into Nicholson's competency at the Rule 11 hearing, inquiring if he had taken any substances prior to the hearing and what those were.  Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion to withdraw Nicholson's plea because there was no fair and just reason for doing so.

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