Lafayette, IN asked in Criminal Law, Civil Litigation and Civil Rights for Maryland

Q: My brother was coerced into making an Alford plea by his paid lawyer, can we obtain new council and withdraw the plea?

He was uncomfortable with making the decision and pleaded his innocence but intimidation by his own council made him sign a deal.

2 Lawyer Answers
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-242(h):

(h) Withdrawal of Plea. At any time before sentencing, the court may permit a defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty, a conditional plea of guilty, or a plea of nolo contendere when the withdrawal serves the interest of justice. After the imposition of sentence, on motion of a defendant filed within ten days, the court may set aside the judgment and permit the defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty, a conditional plea of guilty, or a plea of nolo contendere if the defendant establishes that the provisions of section (c), (d), or (e) of this Rule were not complied with or there was a violation of a plea agreement entered into pursuant to Rule 4-243. The court shall hold a hearing on any timely motion to withdraw a plea of guilty, a conditional plea of guilty, or a plea of nolo contendere.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: If your brother feels he was coerced into making an Alford plea by his lawyer, it may be possible to seek new counsel and attempt to withdraw the plea. An Alford plea, where a defendant maintains their innocence but acknowledges that the prosecution's evidence would likely lead to a conviction, is a serious decision and should be made voluntarily and with full understanding of the consequences.

To pursue withdrawal of the plea, your brother would need to demonstrate that the plea was not entered into voluntarily, which could include coercion or ineffective assistance of counsel. This is a challenging process and requires substantial evidence to support the claim.

Obtaining new legal representation would be a critical first step. A new attorney can review the case, the circumstances surrounding the plea, and advise on the feasibility and process of withdrawing it. They can also represent your brother in court proceedings related to the plea withdrawal.

Remember, the court must approve the withdrawal of an Alford plea, and this approval is not guaranteed. The judge will consider various factors, including the reasons for the withdrawal request and any evidence of coercion or misunderstanding of the plea agreement.

It's important to act promptly as the ability to withdraw a plea often depends on the timing and the specific circumstances of the case. Early consultation with a new attorney will help in assessing the situation and planning the appropriate legal strategy.

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