Withdrawing Pleas in California
While not necessarily easy, a plea of guilty or no contest ("nolo contendre") can often be withdrawn in a California court if the circumstances are correct. Only a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with experience in this area can determine whether there is a fighting chance to withdraw the plea. Criminal defendants are often under the incorrect impression that, if they simply change their mind after their plea and sentencing, the court will allow them to withdraw their plea and proceed to trial. This is simply not the truth. Despite what you may have been told, there is a limited set of circumstances that allows a plea to be withdrawn.
Examples of Situations Where a Plea Maybe Withdrawn:
- The defendant was mentally ill and incompetent when the plea was taken.
- The defendant was physically ill and incapable of knowingly, freely and voluntarily entering into the plea agreement.
- The defendant was under the influence of drugs and did not understand what was happening when the plea was taken.
- The defendant's attorney misled him or her as to what the plea and/or sentence was going to be.
- A previously agreed upon plea or sentence bargain was not actually given.
- The defendant did not understand what the prosecutor and/or judge was saying because of a language problem.
- The defendant was not warned of the immigration consequences of his plea.
Situations Where a Plea May Not Be Withdrawn:
The plea cannot be withdrawn simply because a defendant has "buyer's remorse", i.e. he or she has changed their mind and don't like the plea or sentence upon reflection. The court system does not have the time or resources to keep coming back to cases that have already be settled and resolved. Often, a defendant reaches jail and is told by other inmates that he should have held out for a "better deal" or there wasn't enough evidence to be convicted. That is normally not enough to withdraw a plea.
What Other Situations Preclude the Withdrawal of a Plea?
Sadly, often a defendant will come back years later to an attorney to ask a court to withdraw a plea because the plea they entered had unrealized immigration consequences. They will want the court to substitute a lesser crime for the one pled to to keep them in the country or allow them to gain their citizenship. Unless one of the criteria outlined above is applicable, the court cannot lower a charge or change the sentence just because it would help someone stay in the country or otherwise help their immigration situation.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
Only a good and experienced attorney can review your case to determine if you fall into one of the categories that will allow you to try to have your plea withdraw. If, after proper analysis, there is a reasonable opportunity to withdraw the plea, then the attorney will prepare what is called a "motion" to withdraw the plea and file it with the court. It may be necessary to have a formal court hearing where the defendant, or perhaps an expert of some type, gives testimony to the judge to demonstrate why the plea should be withdrawn. A skilled attorney will thoroughly prepare the client for the hearing and testimony to maximize the client's chances of a successful withdrawal. It takes experience and skill to be successful with these types of motions.
Why should I hire Kenneth H. Lewis for my case?
Hire Ken Lewis because he has successfully handled numerous motions to withdraw pleas. He understands the ins and outs of preparing a successful motion and knows how to properly prepare a client and witness to testify. He has over 37 years practicing as a criminal defense lawyer and he can fight for you!
Kenneth H. Lewis is one of the relatively few lawyers to have argued a case before the California Supreme Court, People v. Leon. He is admitted before all the courts in California, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, the United States District Court for the Central District of California, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, the United States Tax Court and the United States Supreme Court, where he appeared at counsel's table in the case of
California vs. Rooney.
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