Can You Reopen A Case After Pleading Guilty?

Can You Reopen A Case After Pleading Guilty?

Plea bargaining has grown in popularity as criminal courts have become increasingly crowded, and constitutional concerns require cases to be moved speedily through the system. They are desirable because they are the result of a negotiation where the prosecution and defense both maintain some control over the outcome and hopefully, the attorneys can develop a plea bargain that both they and you can live with.

What Is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is a deal between a defendant and a prosecutor. The defendant agrees to plead guilty or “no contest”; in return, the prosecutor may drop charges, lessen an offense, or suggest an acceptable sentence.

An “open plea” is when a defendant pleads guilty without any specific sentence assurance, relying entirely on the court’s discretion for the final judgment.

Can You Appeal a Plea Bargain?

So, can you reopen a case after pleading guilty?

Under certain circumstances, an unknowingly or involuntarily accepted plea bargain may be appealed. Typically, the appeal process occurs before the same judge who accepted it at the trial court level or at higher levels, such as the appellate court, Texas Supreme Court, or federal courts.

Consider a scenario where you meet your attorney on the day of the trial, having communicated briefly over the phone. Despite providing evidence of your innocence, your attorney appears disengaged, spending more time outside the courtroom than discussing your case with you. In a rushed conversation just before your case is called, your attorney urges you to accept a deal without fully explaining its implications. Later, you discover that your attorney failed to review crucial evidence proving your innocence. In extreme cases like this, there may be grounds to appeal your plea bargain.

Can You Appeal a Guilty Plea?

If your lawyer doesn’t properly advise you on your plea bargain, you may have a viable claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, one of several grounds to appeal your guilty plea. Ineffective counsel is a potential basis for appealing a guilty plea if your lawyer fails to provide proper advice.

Additional grounds include a lack of understanding regarding consequences like jail time probation, restitution, parole, or registration on a sex offender registry. For immigrants, not being informed about deportation consequences upon entering a guilty plea is appealable.

Other grounds encompass being induced into the plea, impaired judgment or lacking mental capacity, and technical issues like the court’s failure to establish a factual basis or clerical mistakes in sentencing.

can a judge overrule a plea agreement?

Is Pleading Guilty the Same as a Conviction?

Pleading guilty and being convicted are close, but not quite the same. There are different stages in the process. The guilty plea is one stage; the sentencing hearing and sentencing is the final stage and when the actual “conviction” is entered.

Occasionally, a judge will sentence a person on the same day as a plea. However, with more serious matters, the judge usually sets sentencing for a later date to leave time for a pre-sentence interview and the drafting of a pre-sentence report prior to sentencing. In these cases, there is usually time to withdraw a guilty plea before the final conviction, discussed more below.

Can a Judge Reject a Plea Deal?

Judges hold the ultimate authority to accept or reject plea deals, and various factors influence their decisions. Pressure from victims, public sentiment (especially in high-profile cases), and even considerations tied to elections in states like Texas may impact a judge’s stance.

Defense attorneys may strategically inform the judge about potential pleas, recognizing that judges cannot dictate terms but can express inclinations toward specific provisions or indicate acceptance or rejection possibilities. This awareness arises from the potential for judges to reject a plea, potentially leading to a harsher sentence.

Can You Withdraw a Guilty Plea After Sentencing?

Post-sentencing, withdrawing a plea is a challenging but not impossible task — with a skilled appellate attorney of course. Typically, the trial judge will only set aside a conviction and allow withdrawal if it prevents an obvious injustice. However, there are specific situations where judges should generally permit plea withdrawal, such as:

  • The defendant didn’t “intelligently” plead guilty, whether because of psychological challenges or the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Defense counsel failed to advise the defendant of crucial ramifications of the plea deal, such as mandatory deportation of an immigrant.
  • The lawyer entered a guilty plea on the client’s behalf without the client’s consent.
  • The defendant was denied a constitutional right, such as the right to counsel.
  • The judge participated too much in plea negotiations.
  • The defendant entered the plea because of off-the-record promises or threats.
  • New evidence of innocence surfaces (such as DNA analysis).

appealing a conviction after pleading guilty

Motion to Withdraw a Plea After Sentencing

A motion to withdraw your guilty plea means you are asking the judge to let you take your plea back. It must be in writing and must explain why the judge should allow you to change your mind. Typically, a motion to withdraw a plea after sentencing will only be considered on a showing of “good cause.”

Good cause can include:

  • Whether there’s any factual basis for the plea.
  • Whether the defendant understood the charges against them.
  • Whether the defendant was informed of their Constitutional rights (right to trial, right to counsel).

If you believe you meet the above test, then it will be important to file your motion to vacate with the clerk of the court immediately. These time limits tend to be very short, depending on what court you are in. If you change your mind later, you can always withdraw the motion.

Call Seth Kretzer for Top-tier Legal Advocacy

Looking to reopen a case after pleading guilty? When you face a guilty plea, don’t leave your future in the hands of an unknowledgeable and inexperienced attorney. If you’re in need of a highly effective appeals lawyer in Houston, contact The Law Offices of Seth Kretzer today.

Phone: 713-775-3050
Fax: 713-929-2019
Houston, TX 77002
440 Louisiana, Suite 1440