ON COURT’S OWN MOTION
1. “Whether Appellee voluntarily waived his right to counsel.”
2. “Whether Appellee clearly and unequivocally asserted his right to self-representation.”
3. “Whether the trial court violated Art. 1.051, subsections (f-2) and (g), of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.”
After Pham’s license to practice dentistry was revoked by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, Pham continued to practice dentistry. He was therefore charged with unlawfully practicing without a license. Proceeding pro se, Pham pleaded no contest in exchange for deferred adjudication community supervision. He was not admonished that his plea provided a basis for the Board not to issue him a new license. Because of this, he sought habeas relief, see Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 11.072, arguing that his plea was unknowing and involuntary. The habeas court agreed and granted relief. It concluded that Pham did not realize his no-contest plea was the functional equivalent of a guilty plea.
The State appealed, and the court of appeals reversed. It concluded that Pham chose to proceed pro se and that statutes make clear that a plea of no contest is the functional equivalent of a guilty plea. The trial court had no duty to admonish him of a fact he was responsible for discovering on his own. Regarding Pham’s reliance on his lack of knowledge of the consequence that he would be barred from obtaining a future license, the court held: “Because the trial court was not required to admonish Pham of this non-punitive consequence, Pham assumed the responsibility of apprising himself of the consequence when he made the free decision to elect self-representation. Pham did not become aware of the consequence by the time he entered his plea, but this unawareness did not render the plea involuntary.”
The Court refused review of Pham’s complaint related to the lower court’s voluntary and knowing analysis and granted the above grounds on its own motion.