I often receive calls from clients who have entered a guilty or no contest plea and now want to withdraw their plea and go back to the drawing board. Is it possible to withdraw your plea? It is, but it’s not easy. It widely depends on whether you have already been sentenced and your reasons for wanting to withdraw your guilty plea.
Do I Have an Automatic Right to Withdraw my Guilty Plea?
Generally the answer is “no,” you do not have an automatic right to withdraw your plea. Until recently, the Michigan Court Rules allowed a defendant an automatic right to withdraw their plea if the sentencing judge chose not to honor a sentencing agreement or recommendation (Killebrew and Cobbs agreements). However, the court rules were modified this year that a defendant no longer has an automatic right to withdraw his plea if that happens. Although, it has been my experience that most judges still present the defendant with this option if that occurs.
Withdrawing Your Plea Before Sentencing
One thing is certain: it is easier to withdraw your plea before sentencing as opposed to after sentencing. Do not confuse easier with easy. A defendant cannot simply withdraw his plea because he has “buyer’s remorse.” In other words, if a defendant decides he is dissatisfied with the deal, believes he could have gotten a better deal, or decides he wants to take the matter to trial, the court will not let him to withdraw his plea. A defendant’s true motive and concern must be something other than a sentencing. If the court were to be so liberal in allowing defendants to withdraw pleas, it would create havoc on court dockets and there would be no sense of finality to virtually any case.
The court should allow a defendant to withdraw his plea before sentencing unless the prosecutor would be prejudiced by not being able to prosecute the defendant because of the reliance on the plea. Most successful plea withdrawals are due to procedural errors in the plea taking process. That is why it is important to have an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney thoroughly review the plea transcripts to determine if the court rules and procedures were properly followed. Absent a procedural error, the defendant would have to show a “fair and just reason” for withdrawing the plea and that it would be “in the interests of justice.” If his attorney did not properly advise him of the consequences of his plea, that could make the plea not knowing, voluntary, and understanding which is required by the court rules.
If the defendant asserted his innocence before the plea, the court should view the request more liberally. Although it isn’t a requirement, a lot of courts will view a request to withdraw a plea more liberally if the defendant was not represented by a lawyer when he made the plea. However, not all judges will give that deference.
Withdrawing a Plea After Sentencing
Withdrawing a plea after sentencing is a much higher obstacle to clear. Under Michigan Court Rule 6.310, a defendant has up to six months to file a motion to withdraw a plea after sentencing with the trial court. After that, any relief he seeks will have to be in the Court of Appeals. Usually these motions arise when there is “newly discovered evidence” or evidence of Defendant’s “actual innocence.”
Lansing Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
Withdrawing a plea is not an easy task. It may not even be in your best interest to try because even if successful, that means you start from scratch and could end up with a worse outcome than before. To determine if you are eligible to withdraw your plea or if it is in your best interest, contact Austin Legal Services, PLC to speak to a Michigan criminal defense lawyer today at (517) 614-1983.
Defending felony and misdemeanor criminal charges throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Livingston, Jackson, Kent, Calhoun, Barry in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Jackson, St. Johns, Brighton, Howell, Jackson, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Hastings.