Nearly everyone has had an experience of “buyer’s remorse” – believing that something was such a great deal only to bring it home and discover that what seemed to be a “must-have” item really wasn’t all that special. It is a feeling that even criminal defendants may experience after they have accepted a plea agreement from the prosecution. Perhaps they go home and speak with family and friends who tell them of the “great deal” someone else got. Or the person might ruminate over some of the collateral consequences of a plea agreement after agreeing to take it (such as having their driving privileges restricted due to an OWI plea).
It is possible for individuals to withdraw guilty pleas and pleas of no contest in certain circumstances. There are limitations to this right, though, and it is a decision that may carry serious repercussions.
Defendants May Withdraw Pleas Before Sentencing
Ohio Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1 states that “a motion to withdraw a plea of guilty or contest may be made only before sentence is imposed.” This means from the time that a defendant enters their plea to the time just before the court pronounces its sentence over the defendant, the defendant will usually be able to take back a plea they previously entered. The defendant does this by simply filing a motion with the court stating that they wish to withdraw their plea of guilty or no contest. The defendant need not articulate any reason other than they decided to take back their plea and enter a plea of not guilty to the charge(s) instead.
Be forewarned, however, that the motion to withdraw a plea must be filed before the court pronounces its sentence. A defendant who enters a plea agreement with the state but moves to withdraw that plea after the court has sentenced them to a sentence harsher than the one agreed to has already likely lost their chance to withdraw their plea.
Withdrawing a Plea After Sentencing
The Rules do permit a defendant to withdraw their plea after a sentence has been imposed by the court, but only in cases where “manifest injustice” would otherwise result. “Manifest injustice” contemplates more than just “buyer’s remorse”: instead, the term connotes an outcome that is patently unfair or shocking to the conscious of a reasonable person. Some examples of manifest injustice might include:
- Evidence that the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence from the defendant
- A helpful change in the law that was not known to the defendant at the time of the plea
- A defendant’s attorney failing to conduct any investigation into the defendant’s case or pressuring the defendant to take a plea
It is the defendant’s obligation to show the court that manifest injustice would exist if they were not permitted to withdraw their plea. This often requires more evidence than simply the defendant’s own statements that they want to take back their plea.
Consequences of Withdrawing Your Plea
Whether done before or after sentencing, by withdrawing your plea you undo any plea agreement you may have had with the prosecution. The prosecution is free to refile charges it agreed to dismiss pursuant to a plea agreement. In addition, the prosecution is not under any obligation to make you the same offer or a similar offer. In fact, the prosecution may elect not to offer you any agreement whatsoever and instead have your case set for trial.
The Benefits of an Experienced Columbus Criminal Defense Team
Rather than attempting to undo a bad deal, it is preferable to ensure you obtain the best plea agreement possible before you agree to enter a guilty or no contest plea. Knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys from Dawes Legal, LLC can assist you in this endeavor. We can help you understand the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and what options for resolving your charges are available to you. Speak with Dawes Legal, LLC by dialing (614) 733-9999 and setting up a consultation with us today.