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Clifford Scott Eaton v. State of North Dakota

February 8, 2011

CLIFFORD SCOTT EATON,
PETITIONER AND APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA,
RESPONDENT AND APPELLEE



Appeal from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Georgia Dawson, Judge. AFFIRMED.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kapsner, Justice.

N.D. Supreme Court

Eaton v. State,

2011 ND 35

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

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Opinion of the Court by Kapsner, Justice.

Eaton v. State

No. 20100235

[¶1] Clifford Scott Eaton appealed from a district court judgment summarily denying his application for post-conviction relief. We affirm the judgment denying post-conviction relief, concluding there was a sufficient factual basis to support Eaton's guilty plea for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

I [¶2] Eaton pleaded guilty to two charges on August 3, 2004--possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia. The State offered a factual basis to support the guilty pleas, which included a list of several items found at Eaton's residence, including pay-owe sheets, scales, shipping documents, plane tickets, and eighty grams of methamphetamine. The district court accepted Eaton's guilty pleas, after finding the factual basis provided by the State was sufficient. Eaton was sentenced to five years in prison on each count, with the sentences to run concurrently. Eaton filed an application for post-conviction relief on December 24, 2009, and an amended application on February 22, 2010. Eaton argued he was eligible for post-conviction relief because his guilty plea to possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver was based upon an insufficient factual basis. The State and Eaton filed cross-motions for summary disposition. Eaton's application for post-conviction relief was denied by summary disposition on July 21,2010.

[¶3] On appeal, Eaton argues the district court erred in summarily denying his application for post-conviction relief, because the factual basis offered by the State to support the guilty plea failed to establish he willfully possessed the methamphetamine in his residence and failed to establish he had an intent to deliver the methamphetamine. The State argues the factual basis including the items found at Eaton's residence was sufficient, and the amount of methamphetamine found at the residence allowed the court to infer Eaton willfully possessed the methamphetamine with intent to deliver.

II [¶4] This case comes to us in an unusual posture. The State has not raised, and thus we do not address, misuse of process. See N.D.C.C. § 29-32.1-12(3) (requiring the State to raise the affirmative defense). "A proceeding under this chapter is not a substitute for and does not affect any remedy incident to the prosecution in the trial court or direct review of the judgment of conviction or sentence in an appellate court." N.D.C.C. § 29-32.1-01(2); see also Syvertson v. State, 2000 ND 185, ¶¶ 17-18, 620 N.W.2d 362. Eaton pleaded guilty and was convicted and sentenced in 2004. Eaton did not appeal and did not file an application for post-conviction relief until December 24, 2009, when his sentence had been served. Eaton did not previously challenge the sufficiency of the factual basis to support his plea of guilty to possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. At argument before this Court, Eaton acknowledged he wants to withdraw his guilty plea and vacate the criminal judgment because of the effect of the conviction on subsequent criminal proceedings in another state.

[¶5] Further, neither party has briefed the standard for allowing a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea, despite Eaton's petition seeking relief that would vacate the criminal judgment based upon that guilty plea. "When a defendant applies for post-conviction relief seeking to withdraw a guilty plea, the application is treated as one made under N.D.R.Crim.P. [11(d)]."*fn1 Patten v. State, 2008 ND 29, ¶ 14, 745 N.W.2d 626. After a court has accepted a guilty plea and imposed sentence, a defendant cannot withdraw a plea unless withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice. State v. Bates, 2007 ND 15, ¶ 6, 726 N.W.2d 595 (citing Froistad v. State, 2002 ND 52, ΒΆ 9, 641 N.W.2d 86). The court has discretion in finding whether a manifest ...


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