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Can I Withdraw a Guilty Plea in a Florida Criminal Case?


You might experience buyer’s remorse in many different contexts, but regret takes on new meaning when it relates to a guilty plea in a Florida criminal case. When you’re overwhelmed by the criminal process and potential punishment, a deal proposed by the prosecuting attorney may seem wise. However, you may be having second thoughts thereafter, especially if you didn’t have an attorney representing you.

Fortunately, it may be possible to withdraw a guilty plea under certain circumstances. Doing so is complicated, so you’ll need assistance from a Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer through the process. Some background information may help you understand the basics.

Summary of Plea Bargaining Procedures: Florida’s Rules of Criminal Procedure authorize plea discussions, where the prosecution and the defendant can work out an agreement to resolve criminal charges. Typically, you’d plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges or one offense instead of multiple crimes. The end result is that your sentence is also reduced.

The basic steps in plea bargaining include:

  1. Negotiating the arrangement;
  2. Drafting a written account of the guilty plea;
  3. Reading the plea in open court, where the prosecutor recommends that the judge issue an appropriate order;
  4. Acceptance of by the judge; and,
  5. Sentencing based upon the lesser charges.

The Steps Matter for Withdrawing a Guilty Plea: Your right to take back a guilty plea is based upon where your case is according to the five steps above. You can withdraw at any time, for any reason – or no reason at all – if your case is at stage 1 through 3. However, the situation is different when you’re further on in the criminal process.

  • If the judge has already approved the plea agreement, your case would typically move directly to the sentencing phase. Retracting a guilty plea could be difficult if the court will issue a sentence at the same hearing, as you may only have a few minutes to do so. If the court schedules a separate session for sentencing, it’s possible that the judge will let you withdraw your plea beforehand. You may need to explain why taking it back is in the interests of fairness, such as because you didn’t have an attorney during your trial.
  • Once the court issues a sentence based upon the plea agreement recommended by the prosecutor, the bar is much higher. You’ll probably need to convince the judge that the arrangement is unjust under the circumstances. For instance, you may be able to withdraw a guilty plea if the judge did NOT accept the recommendations of the prosecutor – and instead imposed a much harsher penalty stemming from your guilty plea.

Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney About Plea Bargaining

While this overview on taking back a guilty plea may be helpful, you may have additional questions about the legal technicalities. Criminal defense attorney Kevin J. Kulik can assist with your case, regardless of the status of the proceedings. Please contact our Fort Lauderdale office today to set up a free consultation with an experienced lawyer.

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