Pueblo, CO asked in Criminal Law for Colorado

Q: Once a defendant accepts a plea bargain, the charge and its terms, is it a done "deal"?

Is there nothing else the defendant can do after accepting the plea bargain?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Bernard Crane
Bernard Crane
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Washington, DC

A: I think your question is, can you withdraw from a signed written plea agreement PRIOR to actually pleading guilty before the judge.

Generally, you can change your mind up until the moment in the plea hearing where the prosecutor reads the proffer of facts and the judge asks "how do you plead." Its not pretty, but probably every defense lawyer has had cases where the plea has broken down during the hearing - usually because the defendant disagrees with the exact wording of the proffer of facts supporting the plea as the prosecutor states them in court. At that point, your lawyer can either ask for a pass to talk with you and see if it can be ironed out, ask for another hearing date to take another whack at getting the prosecutor to agree to amend the proffer and get the plea completed, or set a trial date.

If your question is, can you withdraw from a signed written plea agreement AFTER you plead guilty, but before you are actually sentenced, the answer is, it is up to the judge. It usually pisses the judge off, but there are several cases that say the judge should be liberal with letting the defendant withdraw his plea if he has not yet been sentenced. However, you need to realize that any statements or admission you have made in the plea hearing under oath can probably be used against you if you withdraw your plea and go to trial, so your options are fairly limited at that point.

If your question is, can you withdraw from a signed written plea agreement AFTER you plead guilty, and AFTER you are actually sentenced, the answer is usually NO. You would have to show some really compelling reason, like severe prosecutorial misconduct. And even then it would be an uphill battle with the judge.

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