R v Flowers, 2020 ONCA 468
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
Facts and Procedural Background
The appellant, Theodore Guy Flowers, was convicted on multiple counts arising from a vehicular accident involving alcohol and a search incident to arrest. Mr. Flowers entered guilty pleas but did not show up for his sentencing date. Mr. Flowers then moved to strike his guilty pleas on the basis that he had been under the mistaken impression that entering into guilty pleas would result in him being granted access to drug treatment programming through drug treatment court. He argued that his desire to get into drug treatment was the reason behind his pleas, but the drug treatment had not occurred. He was also under the impression that he could strike the guilty pleas if he wanted. Mr. Flowers appealed on conviction.
Issues on Appeal
Were the guilty pleas of the Appellant voluntary, unequivocal and informed?
The appellate judge granted the appeal, set aside the guilty pleas and remitted the matter to the court of original jurisdiction.
The appellant judge was satisfied that the guilty pleas were not informed as there was no plea inquiry from section 606(1.1) of the Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46 conducted or referred to before the pleas were entered. This section lists the conditions for accepting a guilty plea which requires that the accused make the plea voluntarily, understand specific elements of the admission being made and that the facts of the case support the charge. In addition, in the context of a scheduling discussion with the appellant prior to the guilty pleas being entered, the trial judge observed that “the plea could be struck, and he could be re-arraigned.” The lack of a plea inquiry and the judge’s remark about the apparent ease with which the plea could be struck was not enough to satisfy the requirements of the pleas being voluntary, unequivocal and informed.