Florida Court Discusses Permitting a Defendant to Change a Guilty Plea

Many criminal defendants unwaveringly assert their innocence, but others choose to plead guilty in hopes of obtaining a favorable plea deal. State and federal law allows defendants to enter guilty pleas, as long as they do so willingly and with a clear understanding of the consequences of their decision, but if they do, they typically have limited chances to withdraw their plea. Recently, a Florida court analyzed when permitting a criminal defendant to change their guilty plea is appropriate in a case in which the defendant pled guilty to numerous crimes involving sex with a minor. If you are charged with a sex crime, you may face substantial penalties if convicted, and it is in your best interest to talk to a Tampa sex crime defense attorney as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant lived with his girlfriend and her teenage son and daughter. For approximately one year, the defendant had sex with the daughter, who was sixteen at the time. The daughter cooperated with law enforcement and made calls to catch the defendant scheduling sex acts. The defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with recruiting and soliciting a minor to engage in a commercial sex act.

It is reported that the defendant pleaded not guilty at his arraignment but requested a change of plea hearing a few months later, during which he requested to change his plea to guilty. The magistrate noticed he was hesitant and ended the hearing. The defendant requested a second change of plea hearing a week later, during which he stated that no one compelled him to plead guilty.

Allegedly, the magistrate found that the defendant entered his guilty plea willingly, knowingly, and intelligently, and the defendant agreed with those findings; the magistrate accepted his guilty plea. Approximately two months later, the defendant moved to withdraw his plea.  The court denied his motion, and he appealed.

Grounds for Permitting a Defendant to Change a Guilty Plea

On appeal, the defendant argued that he asserted a just and fair reason to withdraw his guilty plea. Namely, he argued that he would have moved to withdraw his plea sooner if he had been advised of his right to withdraw his plea before the district court accepted it. Further, he stated he only entered a guilty plea because his family was being threatened by law enforcement.

Finally, he argued that his motion was timely and that a trial would not cause the court to expend any more resources than any other matter. The court rejected the defendant’s assertions, noting that he moved to withdraw his plea well after the court accepted it, and he testified twice that no one was forcing him to enter the plea. Thus, the court denied his appeal.

Confer with a Seasoned Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

People charged with sex crimes often wish to plead not guilty in hopes of avoiding a conviction and substantial sentence. If you are accused of a sex offense, it is wise to confer with an attorney to discuss your options for protecting your interests. The seasoned Tampa lawyers of Hanlon Law can assess the facts of your case and inform you of your possible defenses. You can contact Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.