Motion to Withdraw Plea: Can a Plea Deal Be Overturned?

People change their minds all the time, however in this case, it can mean the difference between prison time and not.

Having second thoughts is someone’s right. Everyone has the right to change their mind.

In criminal cases, the idea of changing one’s mind is known as a motion to withdraw a plea, or a motion to vacate conviction or motion to vacate judgment. It’s one of the post conviction relief options available to those who have already entered a guilty plea or been found guilty.

This happens when a defendant requests that the court ignore their plea deal that they made and resume the case as if the plea deal hadn’t happened.

So if the defendant had made a plea deal with the court and then changed their mind they would ask the court to withdraw the plea by filing a motion to withdraw a plea.

If the court allows the motion to withdraw a plea it is as if the case is starting over from the beginning or at the arraignment stage of the court proceedings.

The court may also reject the motion to vacate the judgment, thereby enforcing the defendant’s obligation under the original plea agreement.

What Kind of Plea Can Be Withdrawn

Defendants make plea deals all the time to avoid a trial or receive a lesser charge or sentence.

There are a few plea deals that you can request a motion to withdraw for. For example, if you pled:

  • Guilty
  • Guilty but mentally ill, or
  • Nolo Contendere, or No Contest

Any of these pleas can be requested to be withdrawn.

A no contest plea is not admitting guilt but admitting that there is sufficient evidence to find the defendant guilty.

When Can I Withdraw My Plea Agreement

A defendant has the option to instruct their defense attorney to file a motion to vacate the plea before sentencing, which is when the judge imposes penalties on the defendant. This allows for an opportunity to seek reconsideration of the plea entered.

After the sentencing, the defendant may not file a motion to withdraw the plea. Like everything else, there are some exceptions.

Can I Withdraw My Plea After Sentencing

A defendant can bring a motion to withdraw a plea post-sentencing if:

  1. The defendant has not filed a previous motion to withdraw the plea and has not filed a post-conviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus;
  2. The motion is filed 1 year after the person was convicted unless the person pleads specific facts that something outside the defense keeps the person from bringing the motion earlier.
  3. The person files the motion to withdraw the plea and is not incarcerated at the time; and
  4. The person is not barred by the doctrine of laches (a defendant who invokes the doctrine is asserting that the claimant has delayed in asserting its rights, and, because of this delay, is no longer entitled to bring an equitable claim. A motion filed more than 5 years after the date on which the person was convicted creates a rebuttable presumption of prejudice to the State on the bases of laches

These are the only times a person can bring a motion to withdraw a plea post-conviction.

Instead, the defendant has one year to file for post-conviction relief with a writ of habeas corpus.

What Are the Grounds to Withdraw a Plea

When a person requests a motion to withdraw a plea it is up to the court’s discretion whether to grant it.

The court should grant the motion to vacate the judgment if doing so would be fair and just.

The court will consider the total circumstances in whether to grant the motion to withdraw the plea.

There are various grounds to withdraw a plea deal and can include:

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel: This is granted when the defendant can show that a defense attorney’s representation fell below the objective standard of reasonableness under the prevailing professional norms. The bar to prove ineffective counsel is set at a very high standard. Attorneys making small mistakes do not qualify as ineffective counsel unless they prejudice the defendant. As a side note, communication between a defendant and their attorney is confidential. The defendant may have to waive this right to show ineffective counsel. The defense attorney may have to testify about the effectiveness of their representation in court.
  • The plea was not made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently: A plea agreement to a crime is only valid if the plea was made “knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently”. It must be the defendant’s choice to enter into a plea deal. The defendant must also be aware of the consequences of the plea. The plea will not be considered valid if the defendant was mentally ill or intoxicated at the time the plea agreement was made.
  • The defendant was not informed that probation was not an option: A court will grant a motion to withdraw the plea if the defendant could not have reasonably known that probation was not available in their case.
  • Ineffective assistance of an interpreter or translator: Defendants who do not speak English as their first language are entitled to competent interpreters who correctly translate for them and who do not have a conflict of interest. If the court determines that the interpreter caused prejudice to the defendant, then the plea deal may be invalid and be able to be withdrawn.

Will There Be a Hearing?

The court will hold what’s known as an evidentiary hearing, or a mini-trial to help determine whether to grant the defendant’s motion to withdraw a plea.

Like a trial, both the defense and the prosecution can make arguments and present evidence for and against the motion to withdraw a plea.

Can I Appeal if the Judges Refuses to Withdraw My Plea

In order to have your pleas withdrawn, you can appeal the original judge’s decision.

However, the Nevada Supreme Court will not reverse the lower court’s decision unless a “clear abuse of discretion” exists.

If you were refused a motion to withdraw a plea, it will probably hold up on appeal unless the Supreme Court finds that the district court is erroneous in its decision.

Can I Request a Withdrawal of a Plea More Than Once?

You can request a motion to withdraw a plea more than once.

If the first motion did not show all the grounds for the plea being invalid.

If the second request does not contain any new information it is unlikely that the subsequent requests will be granted.

Call the Defenders

Getting a motion to withdraw a plea granted is a difficult process that includes filing motions with the court and attending a court hearing to determine if the motion will be granted. If the motion isn’t granted there is also the appeals process.

This process can be quite complex, involving the submission of necessary paperwork to the court within a specific timeframe and ensuring that it is accurately completed.

Filing any document that is incorrectly filled out can result in a denial of a motion to withdraw a plea or any other conviction or post-conviction relief.

Call The Defenders to discuss options for withdrawing a plea agreement and getting the court to reinstate your right to a trial.

Contact our office today for a free case evaluation.

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