Reversal of a Guilty Plea under Federal Law

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Reversal of a Guilty Plea under Federal Law

When a defendant pleads guilty to a crime, he can only reverse his guilty plea under specific conditions.

According to Rule 32(d) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a federal court may only permit a reversal of a guilty plea before a sentence or other “disposition” is imposed.

Showing a Fair and Just Reason for Reversing Your Guilty Plea

Federal law allows the reversal of a guilty plea before a final judgment upon a showing by the defendant of “any fair and just reason.” However, a misunderstanding of future consequences will not reverse a guilty plea – only a misunderstanding of charges against the defendant or the factual basis for those charges will qualify for a reversal of a guilty plea.

Rule 11 Violations That Can Lead to a Guilty Plea Reversal

Rule 32(d) works together with Rule 11 regarding the entry of pleas. Rule 11 requires the court to determine that the defendant understands the charges, the possible penalties, and the waiver of right to trial. It requires that the court inform the defendant of his right to a competent attorney, that his answers may be used against him, and that he has a right to a verbatim record of the plea. If these factors are not there, the guilty plea may be reversed. 

Rule 11 also requires the court to determine that the plea is voluntary and not the result of threats, force, or promises separate from the plea. For example, a threat to use mace if the defendant does not sign the papers will enable a reversal of a guilty plea.

Rule 11 also requires that the court satisfy itself that there is a factual basis for the guilty plea. For example, if someone charged with murder pleads guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, the guilty plea may be reversed where there’s no proof of passionate killing.

Seeking Legal Help

If you have pled guilty to a crime, and would like to reverse that guilty plea, you should consult an attorney.

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Last Modified: 01-29-2014 10:32 AM PST

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