CAN YOU APPEAL A CONVICTION AFTER PLEADING GUILTY?
The decision to plead guilty to criminal charges is one you should never take lightly.
Changing your plea from not guilty to guilty or pleading no contest comes with significant consequences.
You might want to try to challenge your conviction if you face adverse consequences you didn’t know about.
Pleading guilty to a criminal charge often means that you cannot appeal the conviction. However, with some circumstances that arise under Wyoming law, there are ways a defendant can challenge a guilty plea.
A highly experienced Wyoming criminal defense lawyer can advise you about appealing a conviction after pleading guilty.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A GUILTY PLEA?
Plea bargaining is an essential part of our adversarial criminal justice system. Not all cases go to trial. In fact, most criminal cases never reach a trial. A person charged with a crime has the absolute right to take their case to trial.
Notwithstanding, taking responsibility for your actions by pleading guilty or not contesting the facts of the case by tendering a nolo contender (no contest) plea is advantageous.
A guilty plea relieves the state of the constitutional burden they have to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In turn, you get some benefits as well, like receiving a reduced jail sentence, deferred judgment, or a reduced charge. Therefore, both sides benefit.
A guilty plea also gives the parties finality. The person who pleads guilty to a crime could work to put the incident behind them.
Additionally, the victims of the accused’s actions could start to heal or be made whole once the case concludes.
Courts encourage plea negotiations as well. Judges understand that not all cases should go to trial. Juries have to decide some cases, but the criminal justice system would grind to a halt if every case went to trial.
As a result, many prosecutors may offer defendants an incentive to plead guilty instead of taking their case to trial.
WHAT RIGHTS DO YOU WAIVE WHEN PLEADING GUILTY?
Each person has the right to a fair trial decided by a jury of their peers. Most people know that, but they do not fully understand what it means.
At a trial, the accused has the right to:
- Receive all the evidence the state will introduce at trial before the trial begins;
- Be represented by competent counsel;
- Confront and cross-examine witnesses;
- Present evidence;
- Call witnesses and compel them to testify; and
- Waive their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and testify on their own behalf.
Under Wyoming law, a judge must ask you questions about your willingness to waive your due process rights to a fair trial.
The judge must ensure you understand these rights and that you wish to waive them.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF A GUILTY PLEA IN WYOMING?
Rule 11 of the Wyoming Rules of Criminal Procedure describes how you can plead guilty. The rule requires your judge to ask you a series of questions before accepting a plea.
The judge must be sure that you knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived your rights.
The judge will ask questions to ensure that you are not under the influence of drugs, including prescription drugs and alcohol, and that you do not have a mental illness that prevents you from understanding the process.
The judge must also take care to ask if you received any threats or promises to get you to plead guilty.
The court will make sure that you understand the charges against you and the maximum penalties you face. Additionally, the judge will give you an immigration warning.
The judge will ask if you and the prosecution agreed on a sentence. Additionally, the judge will make sure that the plea is accurate.
The prosecutor will read a statement of facts into the record, and the judge will ask you if the facts are correct.
The judge will not accept a plea if you deny the facts are true or want to offer a different version of what you say happened.
WHY IS APPEALING A CONVICTION AFTER PLEADING GUILTY SO HARD TO DO?
Pleading guilty to a case means that the defendant waives the right to contest the facts of the case.
That means the defendant accepts the prosecutor’s version of events.
You give up the right to tell your side of the story.
In other words, once the judge accepts your guilty plea and enters judgment against you, you lose the right to maintain your innocence.
HOW CAN YOU APPEAL A CONVICTION?
Depending on your circumstances, you may have different options for challenging your conviction following a guilty plea.
CONDITIONAL GUILTY PLEA
Rule 11 of the Wyoming Rules of Criminal Procedure allows you to contest adverse rulings a judge made in the case, such as losing a motion to suppress, if you agree to plead guilty conditionally.
The terms of the conditional plea must appear in writing and be given to the court.
Despite your guilty plea, the condition allows you to appeal any adverse decisions.
If you win the appeal, the court will allow you to withdraw your guilty plea.
MOTION TO WITHDRAW
In limited circumstances, you may file a motion and ask the court to let you withdraw your guilty plea.
If you move to withdraw your plea before the court imposes your sentence, then the court may allow withdrawal for “any fair and just reason.”
If you wait until after the court imposes the sentence, the court may permit withdrawal only to “correct manifest injustice.”
Some circumstances that might justify plea withdrawal include:
- Receiving incorrect legal advice from counsel;
- Tendering a plea when incompetent;
- Pleading guilty when the judge failed to grant you certain rights; and
- Not understanding the charges.
Sometimes newly discovered evidence tending to show your innocence may suffice as grounds to withdraw your guilty plea.
One example is evidence that a chemist at a drug lab tampered with thousands of samples, calling into question all the test results.
You must understand that you cannot withdraw your guilty plea simply because you have buyer’s remorse.
Therefore, you should discuss every aspect of your case thoroughly with a competent and knowledgeable defense lawyer to ensure that pleading guilty is the best decision for you.
WHERE SHOULD YOU TURN IF YOU NEED HELP APPEALING A CONVICTION AFTER PLEADING GUILTY?
Justice must be done.
If you or a loved one pleaded guilty to a charge because you thought you had no choice, you might have a chance to appeal your conviction after pleading guilty.
Jeremy Hugus and his staff with Cowboy Country Criminal Defense are ready to help.
Contact us online or by calling 307-333-7884 today, and let us discuss a strategy so you can challenge your guilty plea.