A Criminal Defendant Has A Right To Withdraw A Guilty Plea, In Some Circumstances

A defendant in a criminal case may be permitted to withdraw his plea if good cause exists.  However, many Judges will deny these requests and when they do they must state the reasons for it.  This Appeals case is a good example of what should and what should not be done. Perez was charged with possessing drugs for sale and a firearm. He expressed to his attorney his concerns about his immigration status, and was misadvised that he should plead guilty because then his sentence would be short and he could more likely avoid deportation. Perez pled guilty and was placed on probation. A federal immigration court then ordered him removed from the United States based on his conviction for possession of methamphetamine for sale. Following these developments, Perez timely filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea based on ineffective assistance of counsel, and presented declarations as to the incorrect advice he received. The trial court, without stating its reasons, denied the motion. Perez obtained a certificate of probable cause and appealed. The Court Held: Reversed and remanded. A Judge may permit a guilty plea to be withdrawn if the criminal defendant establishes good cause to withdraw the plea. The trial court’s decision to deny a motion to withdraw a guilty plea is final absent an abuse of discretion. Here, if the declarations Perez submitted in support of his motion were believed, he established good cause to withdraw his plea based on trial counsel’s affirmative misrepresentations regarding the immigration consequences of his plea. The district attorney did not file an opposition and the trial court did not make an adverse credibility finding. In these circumstances, the trial court abused its discretion, as its denial without any statement of a reason provided no reasonable basis for the denial. “[W]hen the evidence is one-sided and the court’s ruling is contrary to that evidence, an order denying relief should alert the reviewing court as to the reason(s) for such a ruling.”(CCAP)

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