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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JOHN A. KULP (01/26/78)

decided: January 26, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
JOHN A. KULP



COUNSEL

George W. Westervelt, Jr., Stroudsburgh, for appellant.

Allen E. Ertel, Dist. Atty., Robert F. Banks, First Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, former C. J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Eagen, C. J., and Pomeroy, J., concur in the result.

Author: Nix

[ 476 Pa. Page 359]

OPINION

On June 28, 1974, John A. Kulp, appellant herein, entered a plea of guilty to the charges of possession and delivery of a controlled substance, marijuana*fn1 and criminal conspiracy.*fn2 In the colloquy accompanying the entry of the pleas of guilty, Mr. Kulp testified that on one occasion, with the

[ 476 Pa. Page 360]

    assistance of a female friend, he had sold one ounce of marijuana to two undercover agents for the sum of twenty dollars. The sale was made while appellant was working at a Citgo Gas Station in Williamsport, Lycoming County. Upon appeal to the Superior Court, a majority of that court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing, but refused to allow the withdrawal of the pleas and the award of a new trial. Commonwealth v. Kulp, 235 Pa. Super. 397, 344 A.2d 602 (1975).*fn3 We granted allocatur and now reverse the order of the Superior Court.

[ 476 Pa. Page 361]

The critical issue raised is whether the post Ingram*fn4 colloquy in this case contained sufficient information for the hearing court to have been satisfied that the appellant was aware of the permissible range of sentences he was being exposed to by the entry of the pleas.*fn5 In Ingram, we attempted to delineate the perimeter of an adequate colloquy. In so doing, we cited with approval the Comment to Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure 319(a).*fn6 Commonwealth Page 361} v. Ingram, 455 Pa. 198, 204-5, n. 5, 316 A.2d 77, 81, n. 5 (1974). The cited comment specifically queried: "Is the defendant aware of the permissible range of sentences and/or fines for the offenses charged?". This question was framed recognizing that the decision to plead guilty to a charge could not be accepted as being knowingly and intelligently entered without an assurance that the accused fully comprehended the maximum punishment that might be imposed for his conduct. This information is obviously an integral part of the knowledge that should be possessed by one who is called upon to make the difficult decision whether to surrender his right to trial and to place himself at the mercy of the sentencing court. No civilized society could tolerate the waiver of such basic rights from one who was unaware of or misinformed as to such a critical fact.

The only part of the colloquy that addresses this subject is the following question and answer:

Q. [By the court to defendant] Do you understand what the ...


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