The Appellate Group

Arriaga v. State

Arriaga v. State, 2020 UT 37 (Durrant, C.J.)


During his hearing where he pleaded guilty to murder, the defendant made two statements in Spanish that he was defending himself against the victim when he shot the victim. After a statement from defense counsel, the district court accepted the guilty plea. The defendant later filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his plea was not knowing or voluntary. The State moved for summary judgment, and the court granted that motion. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed, holding:

  • There was a genuine issue of material fact about whether the defendant’s guilty plea was knowingly and voluntary. The defendant produced evidence that he made statements at the hearing that implicated imperfect self-defense, and the district court and defense counsel did not clarify the imperfect self-defense issue.
  • Even though the defendant produced sufficient evidence to show that the plea was not knowing or voluntary, he did not produce sufficient evidence to show prejudice. He did not produce substantial, uncontroverted, and contemporaneous evidence showing that it would have been rational for him to forego his plea despite not having a reasonable likelihood of success at trial.
  • The defendant did not produce sufficient evidence the he was harmed by defense counsel not having an interpreter present at their one-on-one meeting before the plea hearing.

Read the full court opinion