On Appeal from the 188th District Court Gregg County, Texas Trial Court No. 39,923-B
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bailey C. Moseley Justice
Before Morriss, C.J., Carter and Moseley, JJ. Opinion by Justice Moseley
Indicted with two separate felony driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges, Anthony Woods entered pleas of guilty.*fn1 See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 49.09(b) (West Supp. 2012). In each case, although Woods entered a plea of "true" to the two jurisdictional prior offenses which had been alleged (and which had elevated each charge to felony status),*fn2 he entered a plea of "not true" to the enhancement paragraphs which had been alleged in the indictments. After having heard the pleas, the trial court accepted Woods' pleas, made a finding that there was sufficient evidence to prove the existence of the enhancement convictions, heard evidence pertaining to assessment of punishment, and then sentenced Woods to twenty years' imprisonment in one case and thirty years' imprisonment in the other.
In five appellate points, Woods raises issues regarding one of the prior offenses employed as a predicate to raising both of the charges to felony levels, the complained-of prior offense being cause number 96-397 on the docket of the County Court at Law of Harrison County, Texas, dated May 14, 1996. Although Woods stipulated to that prior conviction (as well as another prior DWI which is not at issue here), the only other evidence the State offered was not a certified copy of a judgment of conviction but, rather, a certified copy of what appears to be a photocopy of the outside of a file jacket or "shuck" in which the papers from the 1996 Harrison County case were kept. This document bears the 1996 cause number, Woods' name, the information that the charged offense was a DWI, and the additional information that Woods had entered a plea of guilty to the charge and had been sentenced to sixty days in jail with credit for time served.
On his appeal, Woods raises the following points:
(1) He maintains that the copy of the exterior of the file jacket or "shuck" is not sufficient evidence to prove the existence of the prior Harrison County conviction.
(2) He says that the trial court erred in denying his motion for new trial because his stipulation to the existence of the prior DWI was entered "in ignorance of the true state of affairs."
(3) He argues that reversible systemic error exists because there was no proof the prior DWI conviction was a final conviction.
(4) He avers that because of his ignorance of the truth, the pleas he entered were not voluntary pleas.
(5) He alleges that the actions of the State in securing the indictments when having the full awareness of the flaws in the prior DWI conviction amounted to prosecutorial misconduct.
Sufficient Evidence Proving Prior Final Conviction*fn3
In a felony DWI case, the prior DWI convictions are elements of the offense, and (like the other elements of the offense) must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Gibson v. State, 995 S.W.2d 693, 696 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999). Where a defendant stipulates to the existence of the prior convictions, he makes a judicial admission which removes the need for the State to provide proof of that conviction. Bryant v. State, 187 S.W.3d 397, 402 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005); see also Menefee v. State, 287 S.W.3d 9, 13 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009) (on plea of guilty, evidence may be supported by proffer or stipulation of evidence embracing all constituent elements of charged offense; defendant's sworn written statement or testimony under oath in open court admitting culpability or at least generally acknowledging truth of allegations against him). Such a stipulation waives a defendant's "right to put the government to its proof of that element." Bryant, 187 S.W.3d at 402*fn4 (quoting United States v. Harrison, 204 F.3d 236, 240 (D.C. Cir. 2000)).*fn5 On appeal, Bryant attempted to attack the sufficiency of the evidence of two prior DWI convictions, but was precluded from doing so because he had stipulated to them when entering his plea at trial. Bryant, 187 S.W.3d at 398, 401-02. Woods (like Bryant) was barred from challenging the sufficiency of his 1996 Harrison County DWI conviction because he had stipulated to that conviction.
Even absent the oral stipulation, there was still some evidence proving Woods' 1996 conviction. Woods signed a stipulation of evidence in each case wherein he specifically admitted having been "convicted of an offense relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated" on May 21, 1996, in cause number 96-367 in Harrison County. In addition to the written stipulation and the aforementioned certified copy of the ...