(a) Entering a Plea.
(1) In General. A defendant may plead not guilty or guilty.
(2) Conditional Plea. With the consent of the court and the prosecuting attorney, a defendant may enter a conditional plea of guilty, reserving in writing the right to have an appellate court review an adverse determination of a specified pretrial motion. The defendant, any defendant's attorney, and the prosecuting attorney must consent in writing to a conditional plea filed with the court. If the court accepts the conditional plea, it must enter an order. The resulting judgment must specify it is conditional. A defendant who prevails on appeal must be allowed to withdraw the plea.
(3) Failure to Enter a Plea. If a defendant refuses to enter a plea, the court must enter a plea of not guilty.
(b) Advice to defendant.
(1) The court may not accept a plea of guilty without first, by addressing the defendant personally [except as provided in Rule 43(b)] in open court, informing the defendant of and determining that the defendant understands the following:
(A) the right to plead not guilty, or having already so pleaded, to persist in that plea;
(B) the right to a jury trial;
(C) the right to be represented by counsel at trial and at every other stage of the proceeding and, if necessary, the right to have the counsel provided under Rule 44;
(D) the right at trial to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, to be protected from compelled self-incrimination, to testify and present evidence, and to compel the attendance of witnesses;
(E) the defendant's waiver of these trial rights if the court accepts a plea of guilty;
(F) the nature of each charge to which the defendant is pleading;
(G) any maximum possible penalty, including imprisonment, fine, and mandatory fee;
(H) any mandatory minimum penalty;
(I) the court's authority to order restitution; and
(J) that, if convicted, a defendant who is not a United States citizen may be removed from the United States, denied citizenship, and denied admission to the United States in the future.
(2) Ensuring That a Plea is Voluntary. Before accepting a plea of guilty, the court must address the defendant personally in open court, unless the defendant's presence is not required under Rule 43(b)(2) or (c), and determine that the plea is voluntary and did not result from force, threats, or promises other than promises in a plea agreement. The court must also inquire whether the defendant's willingness to plead guilty results from discussion between the prosecuting attorney and the defendant or the defendant's attorney.
(3) Determining the Factual Basis for a Plea. Before entering judgment on a guilty plea, the court must determine that there is a factual basis for the plea.
(4) Acknowledgment by Defendant. Except when a court has approved waiver of the defendant’s personal appearance under Rule 43(b), before entering judgment on a guilty plea, the court must determine that the defendant either:(A) acknowledges facts exist that support the guilty plea; or(B) while maintaining innocence, acknowledges that the guilty plea is knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently made by the defendant and that evidence exists from which the trier of fact could reasonably conclude that the defendant committed the crime.
(c) Plea Agreement Procedure.
(1) In General. The prosecuting attorney and the defendant's attorney, or the defendant when acting pro se, may discuss and reach a plea agreement. The court must not participate in these discussions. If the defendant pleads guilty to either a charged offense or a lesser or related offense, the plea agreement may specify that the prosecuting attorney will:
(A) not bring, or will move to dismiss, other charges;
(B) recommend, or agree not to oppose the defendant's request, that a particular sentence is appropriate; or
(C) agree that a specific sentence or sentencing range is the appropriate disposition of the case.
(2) Disclosing a Plea Agreement. The parties must disclose the plea agreement in open court when the plea is offered, unless the court for good cause allows the parties to disclose the plea agreement in camera.
(3) Judicial Consideration of a Plea Agreement.
(A) To the extent the plea agreement is of the type specified in Rule 11(c)(1)(A) or (C), the court may accept the agreement, reject it, or defer a decision until the court has reviewed the presentence report.
(B) To the extent the plea agreement is of the type specified in Rule 11(c)(1)(B), the court must advise the defendant that the defendant has no right to withdraw the plea if the court does not follow the recommendation or request.
(4) Accepting a Plea Agreement. If the court accepts the plea agreement, it must inform the defendant that, to the extent the plea agreement is of the type specified in Rule 11(c)(1)(A) or (C), the agreed disposition will be included in the judgment.
(5) Rejecting a Plea Agreement. If the court rejects a plea agreement containing provisions of the type specified in Rule 11(c)(1)(A) or (C), the court must do the following on the record and in open court:
(A) inform the parties that the court rejects the plea agreement;
(B) advise the defendant personally that the court is not required to follow the plea agreement and give the defendant an opportunity to withdraw the plea; and
(C) advise the defendant personally that if the plea is not withdrawn, the court may dispose of the case less favorably toward the defendant than the plea agreement contemplated.
(6) Time of Plea Agreement Procedure. Except for good cause shown, notification to the court of the existence of a plea agreement must be given at the arraignment or at such other time, prior to trial, as may be fixed by the court.
(d) Withdrawing a Guilty Plea.
(1) In general. A defendant may withdraw a plea of guilty:(A) before the court accepts the plea, for any reason or no reason; or
(B) after the court accepts the plea, but before it imposes sentence if:(i) the court rejects a plea agreement under Rule 11(c)(5); or
(ii) the defendant can show a fair and just reason for the withdrawal.
(2) Finality of a Guilty Plea. Unless the defendant proves that withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice, the defendant may not withdraw a plea of guilty after the court has imposed sentence.
(3) Prosecution Reliance on Plea. If the prosecution has been substantially prejudiced by reliance on the defendant's plea, the court may deny a plea withdrawal request.
(e) Admissibility or Inadmissibility of a Plea, Plea Discussions, and Related Statements. The admissibility or inadmissibility of a plea, a plea discussion, and any related statement is governed by N.D.R.Ev. 410.
(f) Recording the Proceedings. A verbatim record of the proceedings at which the defendant enters a plea must be made. If there is a plea of guilty, the record must include the court's inquiries and advice to the defendant required under Rule 11(b) and (c).
(g) Defendant's Presence at Plea Proceeding. A plea of guilty may be made only by the defendant, in open court, unless the defendant is a corporation, in which case it may be made by counsel; or the defendant may petition to enter a plea of guilty as provided in Rule 43(b).
Rule 11 was amended, effective March 1, 1986; March 1, 1990; March 1, 1996; March 1, 2006; June 1, 2006; March 1, 2010; March 1, 2016; March 1, 2017; March 1, 2019; March 1, 2023. The explanatory note was amended, effective March 1, 2022.
Rule 11 is similar to Fed.R.Crim.P. 11. The rule is designed to accomplish a number of objectives: (1) it prescribes the advice that the court must give to ensure the defendant who pleads guilty has made an informed plea; and (2) it provides for a plea agreement procedure designed to give recognition to the propriety of plea discussions between counsel, to bring the existence of a plea agreement out in open court, and to provide methods for court acceptance or rejection of the plea agreement.
Rule 11 was amended, effective March 1, 2006, in response to the December 1, 2002, revision of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The language and organization of the rule were changed to make the rule more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules.
Subdivision (a) provides for the various alternative pleas which the defendant may enter. This subdivision does not permit a defendant to enter a plea of nolo contendere and differs from the federal rule in that respect.
Paragraph (a)(2) was adopted effective March 1, 1986. This provision allows the defendant, with the approval of the court and the consent of the prosecuting attorney, to enter a conditional plea of guilty and reserve in writing the right, on appeal of the adverse determination of any specified pretrial motion. The conditional plea procedure is intended to conserve prosecutorial and judicial resources and advance speedy trial objectives by avoiding the necessity of a trial simply to preserve pretrial issues for appellate review.
Paragraph (a)(2) was amended, effective March 1, 2017, to clarify the procedure for entering a conditional plea of guilty.
Subdivision (b) prescribes the advice which the court must give to the defendant as a prerequisite to the acceptance of a plea of guilty. The court is required to determine that a plea is made with an understanding of the nature of the charge and the consequences of the plea. Subdivision (b) also establishes the requirement that the court address the defendant personally.
Paragraph (b)(1) requires the court to determine if the defendant understands the nature of the charge and requires the court to inform the defendant of and determine that the defendant understands the mandatory minimum punishment, if any, and the maximum possible punishment. The objective is to insure that the defendant knows what minimum sentence the judge MUST impose and the maximum sentence the judge MAY impose and, further, to explain the consecutive sentencing possibilities when the defendant pleads to more than one offense. This provision is included so that the judicial warning effectively serves to overcome subsequent objections by the defendant that the defendant's counsel gave the defendant erroneous information. Paragraph (b)(1) also specifies the constitutional rights the defendant waives by a plea of guilty and ensures a knowing and intelligent waiver of counsel is made. A similar requirement is found in Rule 5(b) governing the initial appearance.
Paragraph (b)(1) was amended, effective June 1, 2006, to remove a reference to court appointment of counsel for indigents. Courts ceased appointing counsel for indigents on January 1, 2006, when the North Dakota Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents became responsible for defense of indigents.
Paragraph (b)(1) was amended, effective March 1, 2016, to include a new subparagraph (J) requiring the court to include a general statement that there may be immigration consequences of conviction in the advice provided to the defendant before the court accepts a plea of guilty or nolo contendere. The amendment, which is based on an amendment to Fed.R.Crim.P. 11, mandates a generic warning, not specific advice concerning the defendant's individual situation.
Paragraph (b)(2) requires the court to determine that a plea of guilty is voluntary before accepting it. Paragraph (b)(2), together with subdivision (c), affords the court an adequate basis for rejecting an improper plea agreement induced by threats or inappropriate promises. The rule specifies that the court personally address the defendant in determining the voluntariness of the plea.
Paragraph (b)(2) was amended, effective March 1, 2019, to reference Rule 43(b)(2), which allows misdemeanor defendants to be absent from a plea proceeding.
Paragraph (b)(3) requires that the court not enter judgment on a plea of guilty without making an inquiry to ensure that there is a factual basis for the plea.
Paragraph (b)(4) was added to the rule, effective March 1, 2014, and requires the court to obtain an acknowledgment from the defendant on whether the defendant is admitting guilt, or instead is maintaining innocence but pleading guilty because evidence exists from which the trier of fact could reasonably conclude the defendant committed the crime.
Paragraph (b)(4) was amended, effective March 1, 2023, to allow waiver of a defendant’s in-person acknowledgment when the court has approved waiver of the defendant’s presence under Rule 43(b).
Subdivision (c) provides for a plea agreement procedure. In doing so it gives recognition to the propriety of plea discussions and plea agreements, provided they are disclosed in open court and subject to acceptance or rejection by the trial judge. It is believed that where the defendant by the defendant's plea aids in insuring prompt and certain application of correctional measures, the proper ends of the criminal justice system are furthered because swift and certain punishment serves the ends of both general deterrence and the rehabilitation of the individual defendant. The procedure described in subdivision (c) is designed to prevent abuse of plea discussions and agreements by providing appropriate and adequate safeguards.
Paragraph (c)(1) specifies that both the attorney for the prosecution and the attorney for the defense, or the defendant when acting pro se, participate in plea discussions. It also makes clear that there are three possible concessions that may be made in a plea agreement: first, the charge may be reduced to a lesser or related offense; second, the attorney for the prosecution may agree not to recommend or not oppose the imposition of a particular sentence; or third, the attorney for the prosecution may promise to move for a dismissal of other charges. The court is not permitted to participate in plea discussions because of the possibility that the defendant would believe that the defendant would not receive a fair trial, if no agreement had been reached or the court rejected the agreement, and a subsequent trial ensued before the same judge.
Paragraph (c)(2) provides that the parties must disclose any plea agreement in open court or, for good cause, in camera. Paragraph (c)(3) gives the court, upon notice of the plea agreement, the option of accepting or rejecting the agreement or deferring its decision until receipt of the presentence report. The court must inform the defendant that it may choose not to accept a sentence recommendation made as part of a plea agreement. Decisions on plea agreements are left to the discretion of the individual trial judge.
Paragraph (c)(4) requires the court, if it accepts the plea agreement, to inform the defendant that it will embody in the judgment and sentence the disposition provided in the plea agreement, or one more favorable to the defendant. This provision serves the dual purpose of informing the defendant immediately that the agreement will be implemented.
Paragraph (c)(5) requires the court, on the record, upon its rejection of the plea agreement, to inform the defendant of this fact and to advise the defendant personally, in open court, or for good cause, in camera, that the court is not bound by the plea agreement. The defendant must be afforded an opportunity to withdraw the defendant's plea and must be advised that if the defendant persists in the defendant's guilty plea, the disposition of the case may be less favorable to the defendant than contemplated by the plea agreement.
Paragraph (c)(6) requires that the court be notified of the existence of a plea agreement at the arraignment or at another time prior to trial fixed by the court unless it can be shown that for good cause this was not done. Having a plea entered at this stage provides a reasonable time for the defendant to consult with counsel and for counsel to complete any plea discussions with the attorney for the prosecution. The objective of the provision is to make clear that the court has authority to require a plea agreement to be disclosed sufficiently in advance of trial so as not to interfere with the efficient scheduling of criminal cases.
A new subdivision (d) on plea withdrawal was transferred to Rule 11 from Rule 32 effective March 1, 2010.
Subdivision (e) makes it clear that N.D.R.Ev. 410 governs the admissibility of plea discussions.
Subdivision (f) requires that a verbatim record be kept of the proceedings. The record is important in the event of a post-conviction attack.
Subdivision (g) was amended, effective March 1, 2023, to clarify that a defendant’s presence at a plea proceeding may be waived as allowed by Rule 43(b). If the defendant wants to plead guilty without appearing in court, a written form must be used which advises the defendant of his or her constitutional rights and creates a record showing that the plea was made voluntarily, knowingly, and understandingly. See Appendix Form 17. A court may accept a guilty plea via contemporaneous audio or audiovisual transmission by reliable electronic means using the procedure set out in N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. Rule 52.
Rule 11 does not include a subdivision entitled harmless error and differs from the 1983 amendment to Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(h) in that respect. Rule 52(a), Harmless Error, is intended to have general application to all the criminal rules of procedure.
SOURCES: Joint Procedure Committee Minutes of September 30, 2021, pages 10-12; April 29, 2021, pages 8-9; January 25, 2018, page 8; January 28-29, 2016, page 7; April 23-24, 2015, page 14; January 29-30, 2015, page 23; January 31-February 1, 2013, page 12; September 27, 2012,pages 18-21; January 29-30, 2009, pages 11-13, 19-20; April 27-28, 2006, pages 2-5, 15-17; September 22-23, 2005, pages 17-18; September 23-24, 2004, pages 5-9; April 29-30, 2004, pages 28-30; January 26-27, 1995, pages 5-6; September 29-30, 1994, pages 2-4; April 28-29, 1994, pages 10-12; April 20, 1989, page 4; December 3, 1987, page 15; June 22, 1984, pages 11-16; April 26, 1984, pages 2-3; April 26-27, 1979, pages 4-7; May 25-26, 1978, pages 31-34; March 16-17, 1978, page 20; January 12-13, 1978, pages 5-6;January 10, 1977, page 4; April 24-26, 1973, pages 8-9; December 11-15, 1972, page 43; May 11-12, 1972, pages 2-6; November 18-20, 1971, pages 34-38; September 17-18, 1970, pages 1-6; May 3-4, 1968, page 9.
SUPERSEDED: N.D.C.C. §§ 29-13-02, 29-14-01, 29-14-02, 29-14-14, 29-14-15, 29-14-16, 29-14-17, 29-14-18, 29-14-19, 29-14-20, 29-14-21, 29-14-22, 29-14-23, 29-14-24, 29-14-26, 29-14-27, 29-16-01, 29-21-16, 29-22-33, 33-12-17, 33-12-18.
CONSIDERED: N.D.C.C. § 31-13-03.
CROSS REFERENCE: N.D.R.Crim.P. 43 (Defendant's Presence); N.D.R.Crim.P. 44 (Right to and Appointment of Counsel); N.D.R.Ev. 410 (Offer to Plead Guilty; Nolo Contendere; Withdrawn Plea of Guilty); N.D.Sup.Ct.Admin.R. 52 (Contemporaneous Transmission by Reliable Electronic Means).