Reversing a guilty plea is a legal issue that has been cast into the public spotlight recently, as a result of Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s seeking to reverse his guilty plea of disorderly conduct. As the Craig case shows (he was unsuccessful), the principle of finality, as a general rule, prevents people who have pled guilty to a crime by signing plea papers from taking that plea back. If reversal of a final judgment were easy, then everyone would try it.
However, several arguments can be made for reversing a guilty plea. Laws exist in a number of states permitting reversal in order to ensure that the defendant is not wrongly convicted and is not denied the chance to have a jury trial.
Minnesota law, for example, allows a plea "withdrawal" upon "a timely motion" and proof of a "manifest injustice." Even after a final judgment has been entered and a sentence imposed, the defendant is still allowed to move to reverse without appealing.
Defendants then need to prove injustice. They can argue that they were not of "sound mind" or were otherwise incapacitated when they signed the plea bargain. They can claim they did not understand ("were not intelligent of") all of the consequences of signing the plea. Defendants may claim the arrest procedures were improper, such as officers’ not informing defendants of their rights. They can say that the evidence does not support the elements of the crime to which they pleaded guilty.
Defendants can argue that they were under duress, undue influence, or even panic when they agreed to sign the plea bargain. For example, police may threaten to make allegations of past crimes public or may threaten to charge the defendants with more heinous crimes. Consequences of pleading not guilty may be severe, such as never seeing your children again.
If you or someone you know would like to take action to reverse a guilty, you should consult a criminal law attorney.
Last Modified: 01-27-2014 04:19 PM PSTLaw Library Disclaimer
We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.