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Ex parte Rogers

Supreme Court of Alabama

September 14, 2018

Ex parte Reginald Deshone Rogers
City of Montgomery In re: Reginald Deshone Rogers

          (Montgomery Municipal Court, 2016-TRT-012426 and 2016-TRT-012427; Court of Criminal Appeals, CR-15-0905)



         Reginald Deshone Rogers petitioned this Court for a writ of certiorari on an issue of first impression: Whether the oral-pronouncement rule discussed in Ex parte Kelley, 246 So.3d 1068 (Ala. 2015), applies where a Uniform Traffic Ticket and Complaint ("UTTC") has been filed and thereafter purportedly disposed of by a municipal court magistrate based on a guilty plea pursuant to Rule 19(C)(1), Ala. R. Jud. Admin.[1] For the reasons hereinafter discussed, we quash the writ.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         On March 17, 2016, a police officer for the City of Montgomery issued Rogers a UTTC for improper lights on his vehicle and a UTTC for driving without a license. The officer filed the UTTCs in the Montgomery Municipal Court. Each UTTC was assigned a separate case number. The UTTCs each stated that Rogers was to appear in municipal court on April 18, 2016.

         Rule 19(C), Ala. R. Jud. Admin., states:

"(1) Defendant's Appearance, Plea, and Waiver of Trial. A defendant charged with a traffic infraction, which is included within an approved schedule of fines prescribed for magistrates in accordance with these Rules, may, within 7 days, or, in the discretion of the magistrate, not later than 24 hours before the court date shown on the ticket:
"(a) Appear in person before a magistrate, sign under the 'Plea of Guilty/Waiver of Rights' section on the back of, or accompanying, the ticket, or on a form provided by the magistrate, and pay the fine and costs; in such a case, the magistrate must retain a copy of the tickets or other such forms in either a paper or approved electronic format ...."

(Emphasis added.)

         The record contains a "Plea of Guilty/Waiver of Rights" form that was filed in each of the cases.[2] Under the title of the form appears the preprinted language: "(Plea Entered Before Magistrate-Scheduled Traffic Offenses)." Each form states the respective offense and accompanying fine and court costs for the offense at issue, specifically, in Rogers's case, a fine of $75 plus court costs of $155 for driving without a license and a fine of $20 plus court costs of $155 for improper lights. The lower part of each form contains a section entitled "PLEA OF GUILTY - WAIVER OF RIGHTS," which states:

"I, the undersigned, do hereby enter my appearance on the offense charged within this complaint. I understand that I have certain constitutional rights which I will waive if I plead guilty, namely: the right to a trial before this court; the right to an attorney of my choice, or if I cannot afford one, one appointed by the court (however, I understand that I may be ordered to make reimbursement at a later date); the right at trial to subpoena witnesses on my behalf, to confront and cross-examine witnesses against me and to argue and make objections; and the right to testify in my own behalf. I also understand that I cannot be forced to testify against myself and that I am presumed innocent and that this presumption can be overcome only if the prosecution convinces the judge or jury of my guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"I understand my constitutional rights set out above and the punishment that will be imposed if I elect to plead guilty before a magistrate. I also understand that my plea of guilty will have the same force and effect as a judgment of conviction by the court and that a record of this conviction will be sent to the driver license division of the Alabama Department of Public Safety. ... I understand my rights and the matters set out above and hereby voluntarily and knowingly waive such rights by pleading guilty as evidenced by my signature below."

Rogers's signature appears on the signature line underneath the aforementioned section on each form, next to the inserted date "04/18/2016," i.e., the court date shown on his UTTCs.

         Although Rogers, the City of Montgomery, and the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that Rogers appeared before a magistrate in the cases, bench notes on the municipal court clerk's case-action-summary sheets for the respective cases state that Rogers "appear[ed] in open court in person and plead[ed] guilty" and that the municipal court entered a finding of guilt and imposed the aforementioned fines and court costs against Rogers in the respective cases. The case-action-summary sheets reflect that Rogers's guilty pleas were entered on April 18, 2016. The signature under the respective bench notes appears to be the signature of Montgomery Municipal Court Judge Lester Hayes, and the following appears under the signature line: "Judge/Magistrate Municipal Court."[3]

         Rogers filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals; the cases were apparently consolidated for purposes of appeal. Rogers's notice of appeal stated that the appeal was filed pursuant to Rule 30.2, Ala. R. Crim. P., which states: "An appeal from the district or municipal court shall go directly to the appropriate appellate court: (1) If an adequate record or stipulation of fact is available and the right to a jury trial is waived by all parties entitled to trial by jury ...." Rogers stated that he had waived his right to a jury trial and that "there is an adequate record available on appeal because the record is both accurate and complete." Rogers's notice of appeal also stated that he "pleaded guilty to [the] offenses and that the magistrate accepted his plea and assessed" the respective fines and court costs against him. The notice of appeal continued: "The magistrate's authority to assess fines and costs against Mr. Rogers is a question of law that can be resolved on the record available from the municipal court -- namely the ['Plea of Guilty-Waiver of Rights'] forms that indicate that Mr. Rogers pleaded guilty before a magistrate, who then imposed fines and costs on each ticket." Rogers contended that he should have been assessed court costs as to only one of the convictions because both offenses arose from the same incident.

         Rogers filed an appellate brief with the Court of Criminal Appeals. His brief included arguments consistent with the arguments stated in his notice of appeal. Specifically, Rogers argued that the UTTCs arose from the same incident, that Alabama law prohibits the imposition of more than one court cost under such a circumstance, and that the municipal court magistrate exceeded his authority by assessing the court costs as to the second UTTC. Rogers made no argument that the procedures for the receipt and acceptance of his guilty pleas or the entry of the judgments against him were deficient or that he was prejudiced by any deficiency in those procedures.

         The City of Montgomery also filed an appellate brief with the Court of Criminal Appeals. The City argued that Rogers had failed to preserve the issue as to court costs for appellate review and that, if he had preserved the issue, Alabama law supported the magistrate's imposition of court costs for each UTTC. In the midst of the former argument, the City acknowledged that the facts of Rogers's convictions were "not disputed." The City also made the following statement, which appears to confuse the issue whether an error has been preserved for review with the issue whether the record is adequate to support an appeal ...

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