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Pleading guilty and moving for an appeal of a pretrial suppression ruling has not been viewed as an efficient allocation of judicial resources. However, it is terribly inefficient to force the State to trial solely to preserve appeal rights on a pretrial objection. Attempts by courts and the legislature to balance these competing interests have produced a confusing and dangerous mix of contradictory rules.

Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure (TRAP) 25.2 is the latest iteration of such rules. Appeals may be taken following a negotiated guilty plea or nolo contendere plea, if “the substance of the appeal was raised by written motion and ruled on before trial.” If a plea bargain can be struck, the court’s ruling on a pretrial suppression motion can be appealed. It does not apply to all cases. Non-negotiated, or open, pleas simply are not mentioned. If a bargain cannot be struck, a defendant who enters a plea essentially waives any appeal right she might have had based on TRAP 25.2. The defendant who gains an advantage under TRAP 25.2 regarding one kind of error finds herself disadvantaged regarding another.

Young v. State determined that a valid guilty plea waives the right to appeal a claim of error only when the judgment of guilt was rendered independent of and is not supported by the error. If no plea is bargained for, the defendant now may appeal errors occurring at or after the plea is entered. The same defendant who negotiates a plea is subject to TRAP 25.2, and may lose her right to appeal subsequent errors unless the judge consents to the appeal.

Recommended Citation

Gerard S. Reamey, Having It All: Pleading Guilty Without Forfeiting the Right to Appeal, 50 Dᴏᴄᴋᴇᴛ Cᴀʟʟ, no.5, May 2000.

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