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Withdrawing A Guilty or No Contest Plea

Rule 3.170(f) of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure enables an accused person who has entered a plea of guilty or no contest to a criminal charge to withdraw that plea.

The Rule gives a judge the discretion to set aside the plea either before a sentence has been imposed or after. If a sentence has been imposed, the judge can set aside the plea and the sentence and the case will essentially be reopened.

People change their minds. Sometimes, people will enter pleas to criminal charges without the advice and counsel of a criminal defense attorney. People may not realize the adverse effects of pleading guilty or no contest to a criminal charge at the time until after the sentence has been imposed.

Consequences may include driver's license suspensions, inability to own or possess firearms, immigration consequences, and more. Moreover, people are often under the misguided impression that if adjudication is withheld (no conviction), then they have no criminal record that is visible to the public. That is untrue.

Unrepresented people often plead guilty or no contest to simply get their case closed and over with. While I understand the sense of urgency, the quickest way is seldom the best way when it comes to the criminal justice process.

If you have entered a plea of guilty or no contest in the past and wish to withdraw that plea, understand that if a judge allows you to withdraw your plea, your case will be reopened and set for trial. You should discuss your options with a criminal attorney because it might not be in your best interest to withdraw your plea if a trial may not be wise in your case. On the other hand, if you received an unfair plea (such as a conviction when you have no priors), you may want to discuss the possibility of withdrawing that plea and negotiating for something better.