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State v. Ottmer

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 24, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
JULIE CHRISTINE OTTMER

          Assigned on Briefs February 27, 2018

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Unicoi County No. 6864 Stacy L. Street, Judge

         The Defendant, Julie Christine Ottmer, pled nolo contendere to simple possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor, and received an agreed upon sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on probation. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-418. Thereafter, the Defendant filed a motion to withdraw her nolo contendere plea. The trial court denied the motion, finding that there was no manifest injustice to support withdrawal of the plea. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motion because she "misunderstood the terms of her plea." Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          R. Mitchell Manuel, Erwin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Julie Christine Ottmer.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Anthony Wade Clark, District Attorney General; and Christopher Todd Hull, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On September 4, 2016, a Unicoi County Sheriff's Department deputy came upon the Defendant and her husband camping. The deputy "detected a strong odor of marijuana" coming from their campsite. The deputy asked the Defendant if she "had anything illegal, " and the Defendant responded that she had "some marijuana" that "was for her religious beliefs." The Defendant consented to a search, and the deputy recovered a bag of marijuana and "a marijuana pipe." The Defendant was subsequently charged with simple possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

         The District Public Defender's Office was appointed to represent the Defendant. On September 8, 2016, the Defendant entered a "best interest plea" in general sessions court. The Defendant pled to the simple possession charge in exchange for a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on probation and dismissal of the possession of drug paraphernalia charge. On September 12, 2016, the Defendant filed a pro se motion to withdraw her guilty plea because she "misunderstood the plea [and thought] there would be a way to appeal or later fight the case." The general sessions court granted the motion, and a new attorney was appointed to represent the Defendant.

         The Defendant's case was bound over to the grand jury, and she was subsequently indicted on charges of simple possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. On May 1, 2017, the Defendant entered the instant nolo contendere plea in the trial court. At the start of the plea submission hearing, trial counsel stated as follows:

[T]his is a best interest plea. It was actually a plea out of [g]eneral [s]essions [c]ourt. She was represented by the Public Defender's Office. However, she later revoked that plea based on religious beliefs. I was then appointed. We've researched the law and I've had the opportunity to explain the law to her and the [S]tate was kind enough to reinstate that plea, or at least, offer the same terms.

         The terms of this plea agreement were the same as those from the general sessions court plea agreement, the Defendant agreed to plead nolo contendere to simple possession of marijuana in exchange for a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on probation and dismissal of the possession ...


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