A defendant charged with a crime in Florida can enter any plea provided for by the law. While a person charged should not enter a plea without thoroughly weighing the consequences, in some cases even if a plea was entered after careful consideration a defendant may wish to change his plea. Under Florida law, a defendant can file a motion to withdraw a plea at any time prior to sentencing. In a recent case ruled on by the District Court of Appeals for the Second District of Florida, if a defendant’s attorney does not honor his or her wish to withdraw a plea, it can result in a conviction being overturned.
Reportedly, the defendant entered a no contest plea to burglary and grand theft charges. The defendant was then found incompetent and his sentencing hearing was delayed for two years. He was represented by one attorney while negotiating his plea deal and a second attorney at his sentencing. At the sentencing hearing, per the defendant’s request, his attorney requested a renegotiation of his plea deal, due to the fact he did not understand the plea colloquy and proceedings.
The court declined to renegotiate. The defendant’s attorney stated he did not believe a good faith basis existed for withdrawing the plea and did not move to withdraw the plea. Additionally, the court never asked the defendant if he wanted to withdraw his plea. The trial court subsequently sentenced the defendant to fifteen years in prison followed by fifteen years of probation. The defendant then filed an appeal, arguing ineffective assistance of appellate counsel on several grounds. The appellate court found in favor of the defendant and reversed his sentencing.