Thomas v. Texas (original by judge alcala)Annotate this Case
Appellant Cody Thomas agreed to enter an open plea of guilty to state-jail felony theft as a lesser-included offense of the charged offense of third-degree felony engaging in organized criminal activity. Because the State sought to enhance the state-jail felony theft charge with two prior convictions, the parties believed appellant was subject to a punishment range for a second-degree felony. The trial judge sentenced appellant to twenty years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the court of appeals determined that this twenty-year sentence was illegal due to an improper application of prior-conviction enhancements resulting in a sentence outside the statutory range, and it remanded the case for a new punishment hearing. In its petition for discretionary review, the State did not challenge the court of appeals’s holding that appellant’s sentence was illegal, but it contended the court of appeals erred by remanding appellant’s case for resentencing because the proper remedy for the illegal sentence under these circumstances is setting aside appellant’s guilty plea. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the State’s position that, because this was a negotiated plea-bargain agreement for an illegal range of punishment, the parties must be returned to their original positions prior to entering into that plea bargain. Accordingly, the Court reversed the court of appeals’s judgment that had remanded this case for a new punishment hearing, instead setting aside appellant’s guilty plea and remanding this case for a new trial in its entirety.