A defendant in state court in Florida is allowed to plead guilty in what is conveniently known as a plea of convenience. A judge will accept a defendant’s guilty plea regardless of whether the defendant is in fact guilty. All the defendant need do is state during the plea colloquy that he is in fact innocent of the charged crime, but wants to plea guilty anyway, while with bated breath his Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney curses the result.
In federal court in Tampa Bay and Pinellas a defendant may have difficulty changing his plea to guilty unless he states on the record that he is pleading because he is in fact guilty. Further in federal court someone who has plead guilty may withdraw his guilty plea before being sentenced if the defendant shows fair and just reason for the court to grant the request.
The factors federal district courts consider in evaluating a fair and just reason to withdraw a plea of guilty include: “(1) the plausibility of the reasons prompting the requested change of plea; (2) the timing of the defendant’s motion; (3) the existence or nonexistence of an assertion of innocence; and (4) whether, when viewed in the light of emergent circumstances, the defendant’s plea appropriately may be characterized as involuntary, in derogation of the requirements imposed by Fed.R.Crim.P. 11, or otherwise legally suspect.” Before telling this to your favorite federal judge maybe you should contact your Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer.
|I want to plead but I didn’t do it.|
In an interesting murder case involving a change of plea for convenience the Supreme Court noted, “A guilty plea may not stand if it is induced by threats, misrepresentation, or improper promises. The plea must be entered by a defendant who understands the situation and who has been neither deceived nor coerced. A guilty plea may not be the product of incomprehension on the part of the defendant. A guilty plea which is ‘the tainted product of ignorance’ is also void,” see, North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 31 (1970). Yet in the same case just quoted the Supreme Court would allow a defendant to plea guilty to murder even though he maintained that he was innocent of the crime, but that he wanted to plea to avoid a possible death penalty. The issue for the court was whether a guilty plea which was clearly made out of fear of the death penalty could be accepted by a court when it is accompanied by protestations of innocence from the defendant. The court decided that when someone is accused of a crime, he may “voluntarily, knowingly, and understandingly consent to the imposition of a prison sentence even if he is unwilling or unable to admit his participation in the acts constituting the crime.”
Painting: Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait of Andrea Odoni, 1527