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Can I Withdraw My Guilty Plea?

Criminal Defense Lawyer St. Petersburg Florida

Often, a plea bargain is an ideal resolution for a criminal defendant. You might plead guilty to a reduced charge and avoid prison. However, defendants sometimes change their minds and want to withdraw their guilty plea. In Florida, you can sometimes withdraw an earlier plea agreement, but a lot depends on timing.

Withdrawing a Plea Before Sentencing

It’s generally much easier to withdraw a plea before sentencing. According to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.170(f), a court has the discretion to allow a defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest “at any time before a sentence” so long as good cause is shown. The Florida Supreme Court has instructed lower courts to apply the rule liberally because the law favors trials on the merits.

To withdraw a prior agreement, you simply need to make a motion to the judge and ask for it. Your motion doesn’t even need to be written—though you’ll look more professional if you do submit a drafted motion, reminding the judge of the rule.

To withdraw your plea agreement, you’ll need to show “good cause,” which means that you entered the agreement involuntarily for one of the following reasons:

  • Mistake
  • Surprise
  • Mental weakness
  • Fear
  • False promises
  • Other relevant circumstances


Typically, it’s not enough to simply state that you are innocent or that new evidence has been discovered. In those situations, your plea will be considered to be voluntary and a judge won’t let you withdraw it, so make sure you have good cause before you ask.

Withdrawing a Plea Agreement After Sentencing

It’s usually much more difficult to withdraw an agreement after sentencing. According to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.170(l), you must show that a “manifest injustice” will result if the court doesn’t agree to withdraw your plea. Typically, this means that the agreement wasn’t voluntary or that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. You only have 30 days after sentencing to file your motion, which means you must move quickly. A judge will ignore a motion that is filed too late.

Convincing the Judge

Ultimately, you won’t get your plea withdrawn unless the judge agrees to let you withdraw it, which isn’t always easy. You’ll help your case if the prosecutor agrees with you that the agreement should be withdrawn. Otherwise, you’ll need to convince the judge that your situation falls squarely within the relevant rule.

This is one area where having an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side is to your definite advantage. A seasoned courtroom lawyer will understand how your judge operates and can tailor an argument specifically for that judge, thus making success much more likely.

Contact a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Now

Plea bargains should be approached carefully and fully considered before being agreed to. But if you want to withdraw a prior agreement, you’ll need a skilled criminal defense attorney in your corner. Rohom Khonsari, the founder of Khonsari Law Group, is a former prosecutor who understands plea agreements inside and out, including how to get them withdrawn. Call us today at (727) 269-5300 or fill out our online contact form. Consultations are free.

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