Can a guilty plea be taken back?

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Can a guilty plea be taken back?

My son’s father was arrested in mid-February for first degree armed robbery. This is his first offense. His public defender and the prosecuter cornered him and scared him into taking a 7-year plea. He isn’t very educated. He never attended high school. Can the plea be taken back?

Asked on April 20, 2009 under Criminal Law, New Jersey


Martin Matlaga / Martin D. Matlaga, Esq., LLC

Answered 14 years ago | Contributor

The answer is "yes," but under very strict circumstances related to things like his assertion of

innocence, undue influence, didn't know or understand what he was doing, etc. If your son's

father was charged with 1st degree Armed Robbery, don't forget that he's exposed to a maximum

of twenty (20) years in prison after an unfavorable verdict. And this charge comes under what is

known as the "No Early Release Act" or "85% rule." This means that, if your son's father goes to

trial and gets an unfavorable verdict, he must serve 85% of whatever sentence he is given by the

judge before he goes before the Parole Board for the first time. What's crucial are the facts in his

case. On the other hand, if your son's father is truly innocent, my advice is to FIGHT the charges all

the way! In the end, this decision must be made by him. It's his life. Call me at (732)932-7226

(office) or (732)710-0004 (cell).

R.C., Member, Connecticut Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 14 years ago | Contributor

     If your son's father is really convinced of his innocence, he can make a try at withdrawing his

guilty plea.  This past February the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that under certain


an earlier guilty plea may be withdrawn  (2-4-09 State v. Tony L. Slater (A-72-07)). The court listed

the following four factors to be considered:

1) whether the defendant has asserted a claim of innocence backed up with some evidence that the innocence claim has substance;

2)  his reasons for withdrawal (once again, why does he want to change his plea--is it that he
feels he was unduly influenced, or that he really is innocent and can show it, or  that he didn't understand what he was doing);

3) the existence of a plea bargain; (I'm assuming that your son's father didn't make a plea
bargain because if he did, that will definitely harm his chances);

4) whether withdrawal could result in unfair prejudice to the state or unfair advantage to the accused (this would be more relevant in a change from "not guilty" to "guilty" plea, because the state may have already done a great deal of pretrial preparation).

   The Court said that not every one of the four factors needed to be met, but the substance of

the reasons and results of withdrawal must be must be balanced as a whole.  Oh, and definitely, if

at all possible, you son's father needs to change his public defender. Also, the fact that your son's

father has little education and may really have not realized what he was

giving away may act in his favor.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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