This is the second in a series of articles on using Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure to set aside a guilty plea. To read Part 1, click here.
A defendant who enters an involuntary or coerced guilty plea has the right to petition the court to set aside his plea and conviction under Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. This rule applies even if the defendant waived his right to challenge his conviction through appeal or through post-judgment motion. Waiving the right to file a Rule 32 petition as a condition of a plea bargain does not actually preclude the filing of a Rule 32 petition that challenges the voluntariness of the plea. In fact, the act of signing documents stating that the plea is voluntary does not, in itself, establish that a plea is voluntarily made. “[A] signed Ireland form is, alone, insufficient to establish the voluntariness of a plea.” Murray v. State, 922 So. 2d 961, 965, citing Waddle v. State, 784 So. 2d 367, 370 (Ala. Crim. App. 2000).“[A]n involuntary guilty plea will necessarily render the waiver involuntary and a waiver cannot be enforced if it is not voluntary.” Boglin v. State, 840 So. 2d 926, 930 (Ala. Crim. App. 2002).
One of the ways that a plea may be involuntary is through the failure of the trial lawyer to provide effective assistance of counsel. “[I]neffective assistance of counsel may, in some circumstances, render a guilty plea involuntary,” and a defendant’s plea agreement waiver of the right to seek post-conviction relief does not waive the right to argue that the plea was not knowing and voluntary because it was the result of ineffective assistance of counsel. Boglin at 930. Further, misrepresentations by a defendant’s counsel can make a defendant’s guilty plea involuntary. Minor v. State, 627 So. 2d 1071, 1072 (Ala. Crim. App. 1992); Elder v. State, 494 So. 2d 922, 924 (Ala. Crim. App. 1986).
To read more about setting aside a guilty plea due to ineffective assistance of counsel, see part 1 of this series. For more information, check back on our blog for future articles on this subject. If you need to consult an attorney about setting aside or vacating an Alabama conviction, please contact our office by phone or email to discuss the specifics of your case..
William L. Pfeifer, Jr.
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