Can You Withdraw a Guilty Plea in a New Orleans Criminal Case?

Posted on Apr 13, 2018 in Criminal Defense

If you’ve entered into a plea bargain with prosecutors and pled guilty to a crime in New Orleans, you can ask the court to take your plea back, but there is no guarantee that your request will be granted. That is why it so important to think through such offers thoroughly and consult with an experienced New Orleans criminal defense attorney before entering into any plea agreement.

“Buyer’s Remorse” Probably Won’t Cut It If You Were Fully Informed of Your Rights

Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure article 559 gives the district court judge the discretion to permit a withdrawal of a guilty plea at any time prior to sentencing. While this discretion cannot be exercised arbitrarily, and abuse of discretion can be corrected on appeal, judges can and often and will deny a motion to withdraw a guilty plea if it is based on nothing more than “buyer’s remorse.”

So long as the record shows the defendant was informed of his rights and the consequences of the plea and that the plea was entered voluntarily, the denial of withdrawal of a guilty plea will generally not be reversed on appeal.

When a Louisiana court considers a request to withdraw a guilty plea, it will look at a range of factors to determine whether the plea can withstand constitutional scrutiny and whether the circumstances surrounding the agreement warrant reconsideration.

Louisiana Courts Will Look at All Relevant Circumstances Involved in Plea

The primary factors a court will look at when considering a request to withdraw a plea is whether the defendant was fully informed of his or her rights and the consequences of pleading guilty and whether they had effective representation of counsel when making the decision to plead guilty.

The U.S. Supreme Court established in the case of Boykin v. Alabama that the validity of a guilty plea turns on whether the defendant was informed of the rights he waived and whether his decision to waive his rights by pleading guilty was knowing and voluntary. Under Boykin, before a defendant’s guilty plea may be accepted, the defendant must be informed of three rights:

(1) The right to trial by jury,

(2) The right to confront accusers, and

(3) The privilege against self-incrimination.

The defendant must then make a knowing and voluntary waiver of these rights.

Louisiana courts have held that when ruling on a motion to withdraw a guilty plea, judges should look beyond the “Boykinization” of rights as set forth above and consider all relevant factors, such as the breach of a plea bargain, inducement, misleading advice of counsel, strength of the evidence of actual guilt, or the like. As noted, a defendant’s change of heart does not usually render a guilty plea involuntary.

As difficult as it may be to withdraw a plea before sentencing, it can be even more difficult to do so after a sentence has been handed down. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court has held that a trial court may permit the withdrawal of a guilty plea after sentencing if the judge finds that the guilty plea was not entered freely and voluntarily or that the Boykin colloquy was inadequate, and, therefore, the plea is constitutionally invalid.

Recognizing the seriousness of pleading guilty to a felony, Louisiana law does provide an absolute right to withdraw a plea of guilty to a felony if made within 48 hours of arrest. If such a plea is accepted within the 48-hour period, a defendant can file a motion within 30 days to withdraw the plea and the court will set it aside.

If you are considering entering into a plea agreement with prosecutors, you should not agree to anything until you have exercised your right to counsel and spoken with an experienced New Orleans criminal defense lawyer who can advise you of your options, which may include defenses to the underlying charges that you are not aware of.

Bloom Legal: New Orleans Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in New Orleans or elsewhere in Louisiana, please contact Bloom Legal, LLC as soon as possible at 504-517-0487 or contact us online now. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys stand ready to vigorously protect your rights, are available 24/7, and will work tirelessly to obtain the best possible result so you can move forward with your life.

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