If you or a loved one is a defendant in a California criminal case and decide to plead guilty, the judge will give a sentence based on the plea agreement reached. But sometimes, you may feel like the terms of the plea are unfair, or perhaps new evidence has surfaced.

You may think that convictions cannot be reversed once you plead guilty to a criminal charge in California. But this is not always the case. The experienced Orange County criminal defense lawyers at The SoCal Law Network can evaluate your case and determine the probability of prevailing in a motion to withdraw a guilty plea.

However, the judge won’t automatically allow you to withdraw your plea because you simply regret your decision. You must have sufficient legal grounds to do this.

What Does California Law Say About Withdrawal of a Plea?

California Penal Code 1018 PC allows defendants to withdraw a guilty or no contest plea by showing “good cause” before sentencing or within six months after probation has been awarded.

“Good cause” means a legal reason that explains why your request should be granted. Most legal reasons are commonly based on poor communication between you and your criminal lawyer.

How Do I Know If I Qualify to File a Motion of Withdrawal of a Guilty Plea?

Your motion of withdrawal of plea must be prepared by your Orange County criminal defense attorney and filed with the court. This ought to be done before sentencing or within six months of the entry of judgment.

You can generally file for this motion once you realize that the guilty plea wasn’t in your best interests. This could be so if, for instance, you:

  • Believe that an incompetent lawyer represented you,
  • Realize you are going to receive an unpredicted punishment, or
  • Realize you may get a favorable outcome if you shake things up a bit

Filing such a motion after sentencing can be difficult. It might force you to submit a petition under PC 1473.7 or a petition for a writ of habeas corpus (a petition that disputes unlawful detention).

What Is a Good Cause for Withdrawing a Plea?

If you entered your guilty plea as the result of “ignorance, incompetence, inadvertence, mistake, or overreaching factor,” you could be having a “good cause” to file a motion to withdraw a plea.

The California court system will allow a defendant to withdraw their plea on a number of “good cause” scenarios. They include the following:

  • Lack of legal representation at the time of the California plea bargain (unless you unequivocally waived this right)
  • Failure of the defendant’s defense lawyer or the court to specify all the direct consequences of the plea, e.g., immigration or license suspension consequences
  • You weren’t advised of your constitutional rights
  • You had an incompetent attorney or ineffective assistance of counsel
  • Pleading guilty as a consequence of intoxication or mental handicap
  • The defendant was threatened or pressured into the plea (inducements, coercion, terror, or subtle and blatant threats are all involuntary)
  • You were prejudiced by language barrier when entering the plea
  • If new evidence is discovered or was initially withheld, and that could have exonerated you
  • If your plea bargain was violated by either denial of the judge or prosecutor to accept the terms of the deal

What Is the Process Like?

As long as you are within the specified timeframe, you can file a motion for a plea withdrawal. At the hearing, your attorney will present your case in a manner that will convince the judge you indeed have a “good cause.”

It’s important to remember that once you file a motion to withdraw a guilty plea, any plea bargain you had from the Orange County prosecutor is automatically voided.

What Happens If I Successfully Withdraw My Guilty Plea?

If you successfully withdraw a plea, you get to start afresh at the arraignment. Any dismissed charges in the previous deal will be reinstated. Some prosecutors may not be ready to offer a better deal, and some might be hostile than before and include additional charges to the criminal complaint.

What If I Lose My Motion to Withdraw My Guilty Plea?

If you lose your plea withdrawal motion, you will be bound to your sentence. At this point, you can only fie for an appeal as you serve your sentence or pursue a conviction expungement once you complete your probation.

An appeal means you have to show that the judge a) made a legal error in the ruling, or b) abused his/her power. Conversely, an expungement lawyer in Orange County can help you through the expungement process and erase your criminal record.

Can I Still Withdraw My Guilty Plea After Being Convicted?

If a sentence has been passed, the process of withdrawing a guilty plea becomes much more complicated. That’s why you need to use the appeals remedy immediately. While you can still file a motion to withdraw a plea after sentencing or after the six-month deadline, the process is too complex. Talk to your orange county criminal defense lawyer for more information on your legal options.

Should I Withdraw My Guilty Plea Even If I Wasn’t Jailed?

You may be out of jail, but you now have a criminal record that could limit your housing, employment, or financial privileges. It’s also possible that you are actually not guilty but were railroaded by your lawyer or the DA.

Personalized Legal Counsel to Protect Your Best Interests

Challenging a motion to withdraw a plea is a delicate one that requires one to maintain their credibility in the court’s eyes. The motion should be able to show convincing evidence that will set aside a guilty plea.

You need to consult with an experienced Orange County criminal justice lawyer if you believe you involuntarily or mistakenly entered a guilty plea and now want it withdrawn. Our Laguna Hills criminal defense lawyer will help you understand what’s in your best interests. Call us today at (949) 305-7995.