Can I Withdraw or Undo My Guilty Plea?

Have you already pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and are wondering if you can undo or take back what you did? The answer depends mostly on whether you are seeking to withdraw your guilty plea BEFORE or AFTER you have been sentenced.

Withdrawing a plea of guilty to a criminal charge is governed by Ohio Criminal Rule 32.1 which states:

“A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest may be made only before sentence is imposed; but to correct manifest injustice the court after sentence may set aside the judgment of conviction and permit the defendant to withdraw his or her plea.”

Thus, the rule establishes two different situations where a guilty plea can be withdrawn: BEFORE sentencing and AFTER sentencing.

Withdrawing a Guilty Plea BEFORE Sentencing

It is much easier to withdraw a guilty plea before the judge sentences you. However, it is not automatic. You or your attorney can ask the judge to withdraw your guilty plea by filing a motion with the court. The judge then decides whether or not to grant your request. Some of the factors the judge may consider are:

  • Did you have an attorney representing you when you pleaded guilty?
  • Are you simply trying to avoid being sentenced?
  • Will the State be prejudiced by allowing you to withdraw your plea?
  • Are you wanting to have a trial?
  • Why do you want to withdraw your plea?

In most cases, judges allow a person to withdraw their plea before being sentenced if there is a valid reason. There are a couple of common valid reasons why people are allowed to withdraw their guilty plea:

  • You did not have an attorney.
  • You claim actual innocence and you entered your plea because you were uncertain what to do, simply wanted to “get it over,” or you felt pressured to plead guilty.
  • You were unaware of the possible consequences, or were incorrectly told what the possible legal consequences could be.

Withdrawing a Guilty Plea AFTER Sentencing

If you pleaded guilty and you have been sentenced by the judge, undoing what you did is much more difficult. In order to withdraw your guilty plea after you have been sentenced requires that you are able to show “manifest injustice.” What is manifest injustice? Generally, it means that there is a compelling legal or factual reason why you should be allowed to withdraw your plea.

There are two primary situations in which we find manifest injustice. The first is that there is a clear error in what you were told were the possible legal consequences of pleading guilty. The misinformation can come from your attorney, the court, or even the prosecutor. The most common situation is when a person is told that the possible maximum sentence is less than what he actually received. The second type of manifest injustice involves evidence that is discovered after you have pled guilty. This can be evidence that shows your innocence or relevant evidence that was withheld from you or unknown to you at the time of your guilty plea.

What Happens if My Guilty Plea is Withdrawn?

After your guilty plea is withdrawn, you will be returned to where you were before you pleaded guilty. So if you pleaded guilty at arraignment, your guilty plea will be changed to Not Guilty and your case will proceed from there. If you pleaded guilty after arraignment, then your case will be set for trial.

If you withdraw your guilty plea you may be able to negotiate a different deal and subsequently plead guilty. However, there is also the possibility that the judge will not allow you to plead guilty and you may be required to go to trial. Your case could also be dismissed after evaluation of new evidence of innocence.

Do I Need An Attorney to Withdraw My Guilty Plea?

Yes. Withdrawing a guilty plea is a complicated legal process and you should only attempt to do so with an experienced criminal defense attorney. For more information on withdrawing your guilty plea, please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.