So what is a "Tahl Form"?
I recently had a client ask me what a Tahl Form was. Now, in the biz, we simply refer to a Tahl Form as a Change of Plea form. So I was impressed that I had a client who was doing his/her homework! And I thought to myself; what a great subject for all my clients as the next Blog.
In the 1969 case of In re Tahl, the California Supreme Court held that defendants in criminal cases must be advised of their Constitutional Rights before accepting a plea agreement. More specifically, the form deals with the effect of waiving those rights by accepting a plea in lieu of taking a criminal case to trial. The Court opined that the form must be explained to the client prior to entering a Guilty plea, in order for such plea to be valid. It was interesting re-reading the case in order to write this as I hear of a lot of attorney's who simply provide the form(s) to a client and advise them to fill them out and sign them. Here at the Firm I make certain that either myself or associate counsel go over the form with a client prior to them initialing and signing so that they know exactly what their rights are in a criminal case. Moreover, if you were to go to Court, you would here the judge speaking to the attorney and making certain that we have gone over the form with the client, that the client understood the form, was willing to waive said rights, and signed the form 'knowingly and voluntarily."
Many Courts have Tahl Forms that are specific to particular crimes. In San Diego County, when pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for example, the colloquial term for this form is a Misdemeanor Change of Plea Form. Basically, the form is three (3) pages in length and delineates all of the rights that a defendant has and those which will be given up as a result of a plea of guilty to the underlying charges. It is in numbered format and each numbers sentence/paragraph must be initialed by the defendant prior to signing the form. The attorney of record for the defendant also signs, as does the representative from the District or City Attorney's office as, ultimately, the judge.
Now, if the client is charged with a DUI in San Diego County, there is a second form entitled the DUI Addendum. This form will contain sections that are specific to the statutory penalties associated with a DUI conviction in California. The defendant would also have to initial next to these sections indicating that they understand each of the possible penalties associated with a guilty plea in a DUI case.
Most of these DUI Addendums also contain what is referred to as a Watson Advisement. The Watson Advisement is intended to place a DUI defendant on notice that if they drink and drive again and kill someone as a result of their drunk driving, they can be charged with murder.
As mentioned above, once the defense attorney goes over the form with the client, ensuring the client's understanding, both will sign the form in order to present it to the Court. The defense attorney will present the form to the D.A./C.A. and they will also sign. Then, having found that all waivers by the defendant were made "knowingly and voluntarily," the Court will accept the plea, the judge will sign the plea, and the defendant will be sentenced.
We will speak about sentencing in a future blog. For now, I hope that people find this useful. We here at the Firm have a policy of never taking a plea from a client without having fully advised them as to the rights and responsibilities, as well as waiver of right associated with such a plea agreement. As always, each case is different; for specific information and advice related to your case, please don't hesitate to contact us at any time.
Frank R. Pabst
Attorney at Law