Can I Withdraw or Undo My Guilty Plea?

September 02, 2022 by Madison Ferguson in California  Criminal Defense  
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Plea Withdrawal

By admitting guilt in court and waiving trial, a defendant effectively admits the charges against them are true. You waive any chance of successfully defending yourself by raising reasonable doubt about the accusations in the first place. You won’t have to go to trial; instead, the terms of your plea bargain will determine your punishment. People accept plea bargains for various reasons, including the potential for a reduced sentence or the dismissal of more serious charges out of fear, pressure, etc.

It is possible to withdraw a guilty plea in California and in every state within the American Justice System.

A request to withdraw a plea of guilt must be drafted by your attorney and submitted to the court if you change your mind after entering a guilty plea. Generally, a motion of plea withdrawal may be submitted at any time before sentencing or within six months after the entry of judgment. Withdrawing a guilty plea after a sentence may be significantly more involved. It might include filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus or a petition under PC 1473.7.

An accused individual who wants to withdraw a plea must demonstrate “good cause” under California Penal Code Section 1018. A defendant has “good cause” to withdraw a guilty plea if they can establish that the plea was submitted in error, through lack of knowledge or understanding, or by some other circumstance that shows the defendant was grossly misled or did not intend to enter the guilty plea.

Which circumstances warrant a plea of guilt to be withdrawn?

The mere fact that you later come to regret entering a plea won’t allow you to retract it. You only have justification if you don’t know the outcome of your actions. Typical reasons for withdrawing a motion include:

You did not have legal counsel: If you did not have legal counsel when you entered your plea, the court must give you the chance to change your mind. Defending oneself in a court of law without legal representation may be difficult because of the intimidating atmosphere and the need for an in-depth understanding of the law.

Your lawyer failed in their obligations: It is possible to revoke a guilty plea if a defendant believes their counsel did not adequately represent their interests throughout the trial. You may have grounds for a motion if you believe your lawyer has given you bad advice or failed to represent your interests in court adequately.

Penalties were included in your sentence, of which you were likely unaware: If you accepted a guilty plea before fully understanding the potential penalties, such as the loss of your professional license or obligatory prison time, you might be eligible to withdraw your plea. Your lawyer can explain the possible outcomes of a guilty plea. To prevent these results, a lawyer may assist you in entering a plea deal or going to trial.

The plea was not voluntarily entered: If you are pleading guilty because you are being intimidated, pressured, bribed, were mentally incapacitated or otherwise interfered with in any way, you may be able to withdraw your guilty plea.

Withdrawal after Conviction

It might be more difficult to withdraw a guilty plea when the defendant has given up their freedom to appeal as part of a plea bargain. However, if a court has handed down a sentence, the prisoner may have an uphill battle to withdraw their guilty plea.

To prevent manifest injustice, a trial judge will often only overturn a conviction and allow a plea withdrawal after the sentence. For example, suppose the judge imposes a higher sentence despite the parties agreeing to a lesser one as part of a plea bargain. In that case, the fact that the prosecution agreed to and did suggest a specific sentence as part of the arrangement is usually not enough. After all, the court system places a premium on efficiency, and repeating old cases isn’t going to move the docket any faster. Additionally, judges considering plea withdrawals must consider how it could affect the prosecution. A court could go against a defendant’s request to withdraw a guilty plea if the prosecution could not get in touch with critical witnesses between the time of the plea and the time of the attempted withdrawal.

To plead guilty is to deny one’s innocence. By doing so, you also deny the responsibility of the state to establish your guilt. Given that the court may reject your request to withdraw, it’s in your best interest to discuss the matter with legal representation.

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

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