Can you withdraw a guilty plea in Georgia?

In today’s post, I discuss when a person is allowed to withdraw a guilty plea. Many people, for one reason or another, change their mind after pleading guilty to a crime and wish to withdraw their plea. Georgia law permits the withdraw of a guilty plea only in certain circumstances.

Withdrawing a Guilty Plea Before Sentence is Imposed

The first and easiest way to withdraw a guilty plea is to do it before the judge imposes a sentence. Georgia Code 17-7-93(b) permits a defendant the total right to withdraw a guilty plea so long as they do so before they are sentenced. This is especially applicable when the judge delays sentencing and sets a sentencing hearing. Often, however, a defendant is sentenced immediately after the tender of his or her guilty plea. After sentence, whether a plea can be withdrawn comes under the discretion of the judge.

Withdrawing a Guilty Plea After Sentence is Imposed

Withdrawing a guilty plea becomes much more difficult after someone is sentenced in a case. According to the Uniform Superior Court Rules, a judge may withdraw a plea after sentence, but only if it is to correct a “manifest injustice.” Every plea made by a criminal defendant must be knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently made. This basically means that the person must have been in their right mind and not fooled, tricked, misled or forced in to the plea. A plea that was not tendered knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently, would be a manifest injustice.

Furthermore, the motion to withdraw must be filed within in the same term of court when the plea was originally entered. (In many counties in Georgia, a term of court is about every 3 months). After the time limit expires, the filing of a petition for habeas corpus is the only possible relief available.

It is also worth noting that pleas made under the First Offender Act or pleas into drug court (or any type of deferred sentencing) cannot be withdrawn. This is because there is no conviction actually being entered in on the case, which makes the statute inapplicable.

Bottom Line

If you or someone you know wants to withdraw a guilty plea, consult with a Georgia criminal defense attorney to better understand your options. A person may be able to withdraw a plea if done before sentencing or if the judge determines that not allowing the withdraw would be a manifest injustice.