It is not uncommon in a criminal case for a client to be offered a plea agreement, accept, then reconsider. At that point the question becomes whether or not the plea of guilt can be withdrawn and a plea of not guilty entered. In order for a client to withdraw their plea of guilt they must demonstrate both of two requirements.
The first is that the client must establish a good faith basis for making the plea and later withdrawing it. This requires evidence that the plea and requested withdrawal are not a result of fraud, or deceit. Also, that the defendant is not simply delaying the judicial process.
The second requirement is that the client proffers evidence of a reasonable basis for contesting guilt. While this is in many ways the easier of the two elements to demonstrate, it must be more than a request that would result in a futile trial. This means there is evidence that questions the previous proffer of evidence by the prosecutor, which was accepted by the court in entering a plea of guilt.
Finally, if necessary a client may be restricted from withdrawing their guilty plea if the Commonwealth demonstrates that they maybe prejudiced in one way or another. For example, if witnesses are no longer available, or evidence that was available at the time of the original trial has been destroyed or no longer available. This could limit the client’s ability to withdraw the plea.
In order to withdraw a plea of guilt a client must show a good faith basis and that there is a reasonable basis for contesting the guilt. Finally, that the Commonwealth would not be prejudiced. If you are considering a plea of guilt make sure you have a lengthy conversation with your attorney and if you wish to withdraw the plea.
Brandon C. Waltrip, is an attorney practicing criminal defense throughout the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia.