Friday, February 20, 2009


If you think you can change your mind after you have pled guilty to a crime, think twice, and that is especially so, if you have been sentenced because in the words of a recent New Jersey Supreme Court case, you have a “formidable barrier.”

For years, a defendant’s decision to retract a guilty plea has caused confusion and sometimes chaos in the courtroom. This new decision seems to fix a bright line to a just result for this knotting problem. The new analysis is based on four separate factors. They are:
• the existence of a “colorable” claim of innocence.
• the reason for the defendant’s request to retract the plea.
• whether the plea was the result of a plea agreement.
• whether the retraction will result in an unfair advantage to the defendant or an unfair disadvantage to the accused.
The list is not magical, however. A failure of one element does not necessarily spell defeat. All factors must be considered and delicately balanced. As always, the decision will ultimately repose in the discretion of the trial court which is another interesting issue that we can get to on another occasion.

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