Withdrawing A Guilty Plea In Federal Court
The federal rule of criminal procedure allows defendants the right to withdraw a guilty plea before sentencing. However, this is not an absolute right since the court has to decide whether the reason for withdrawing is fair and reasonable. For a court of law to determine if the defendant has the right to withdraw a guilty plea, some standards have to be met. There are four tests that an attempt to withdraw a guilty plea must be subjected to. One, the defendant must establish that the reason for withdrawal is fair and reasonable. The defendant must also prove that he or she is legally innocent from the charges pressed against him or her. The court must also consider the time taken between the guilty plea and the motion of withdrawing. Finally, the court must decide whether and the government will be prejudiced in case the person facing federal charges chooses to apply for withdrawal of a guilty plea.
A fair and just reason
The standard of fair and just reason has been set as the first in-line when determining whether withdrawal of a guilty plea will be granted. This standard is seen as one that mimics the other three standards.
Declaration of innocence
If a defendant fails to assert his or her innocence, withdrawal of a guilty plea will be automatically denied. For a declaration of innocence to be considered, the defendant must prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are innocent from the charges they face.
Duration for a motion to withdraw
Withdrawal of a guilty plea should be undertaken not long after the guilty plea was taken. The more time the defendant takes, the less likely that the court will grant the withdrawal. It is considered that if a defendant made a guilty plea by mistake, he or she would move quickly to withdraw it. If it takes longer to withdraw, the matter may be considered as a strategic plan based on ulterior motives and not necessarily based on the innocence of the defendant.
Prejudice to the government
If a defendant has managed to prove his innocence without undue delay, the courts will have to determine whether the government will be prejudiced if it allows the withdrawal of the guilty plea. The court will have to determine whether the government will be in a position to present a case in a subsequent trial in case the defendant is released. If the defendant can’t be located or the witnesses will be interfered with, the courts might decide not to give the warrant. In most cases, the court will not deny the defendant the right to withdraw a guilty plea based on prejudice, but it will raise the bar for admissible justification. The defendant must prove that the reasons for withdrawal outweigh the potential of prejudice to the government.
When a court considers these four factors, it will decide whether the defendant should be allowed to withdraw the guilty plea before sentencing.
One of the reasons a defendant might consider withdrawing a guilty plea is a change in the law. If there is a change in the law affecting charges the defendant is facing, then a withdrawal is valid. If a law decriminalizes the charges which the defendant had pleaded guilty to, he or she should be considered innocent legally. It is therefore clear that innocence can be established if changes related to the crime contained in the guilty plea are effected.
When judges have received an indication that the defendant is not guilty or maybe did not understand the ramifications of pleading guilty, they might allow withdrawing of a guilty plea. Judges will also want to consider whether the defendant had legal representation at the time of taking the guilty plea. If the defendant lacked a legal counsel, there are high chances that the withdrawal plea will be granted.
Other reasons that might compel judges to allow a defendant to withdraw their guilty plea include cases where lawyers have entered into a guilty plea without the consent of their clients, in cases where the defendant was not informed of the ramifications of taking a guilty plea, new evidence of innocence is established, if the defendant entered into a guilty plea out of threats or off-the-record promises, and if the defendant pleaded guilty under the influence of substance abuse.