Most people charged with a crime assert their innocence. In some cases, though, a person will choose to plead guilty for various reasons. While criminal defendants have the right to enter a guilty plea if they do, the courts take great measures to ensure that their plea is made voluntarily and with full knowledge of its consequences. Thus, it can be difficult for a defendant to establish that they did not understand the implications of their choice. This was illustrated in a recent Florida carjacking case in which the court rejected the defendant’s challenge to his guilty plea. If you are accused of committing a theft crime, it is smart to speak to a Tampa theft crime defense attorney to evaluate your options for seeking a just outcome.
The Facts of the Case
It is alleged that the defendant was charged with carjacking and aiding and abetting carjacking. He pleaded guilty to both charges and was convicted. After he was sentenced, he appealed, arguing, among other things, that his guilty plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. The appellate court rejected his arguments and affirmed his convictions.
Florida Laws Regarding the Entry of Guilty Pleas
On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court neglected to ensure that his plea was entered voluntarily and did not arise out of promises, threats, or force beyond what was included in the plea agreement. The appellate court conceded that the trial court did not ask the defendant whether his plea was brought about by coercion.
It noted, however, that in order for the defendant to show that this mistake impacted his substantial rights, he had to demonstrate that there was a reasonable likelihood that, but for the mistake, he would not have entered a guilty plea. The gist of the defendant’s argument was that he felt pressured into signing a bad agreement by his attorney, who informed him that he could face more charges if he did not plead guilty. The appellate court was not persuaded by this argument, noting that all guilty pleas arise out of some influence or pressure on the defendant.
The appellate court elaborated that a defendant cannot argue that they were coerced because their attorney, exercising their best judgment, advised them to plead guilty, noting that all guilty pleas contain an element of uncertainty. As such, the appellate court found that the defendant failed to prove that if the trial court asked the defendant if his plea was the result of coercion, there was a reasonable likelihood that he would have changed his plea. Thus, it affirmed his conviction.
Confer with an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in Tampa
Although it makes sense to enter a guilty plea in some theft crime cases, it is not a decision that should be made hastily. If you are accused of committing a theft offense, it is wise to confer with an attorney regarding your potential defenses. The experienced Tampa criminal defense attorneys of Hanlon Law can evaluate the circumstances surrounding your charges and advise you regarding what measures you can take to protect your interests. You can contact Hanlon Law via the form online or at 813-228-7095 to set up a conference.