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How to Withdraw a Guilty Plea in Alabama

by William L. Pfeifer, Jr. on August 19, 2011

in Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure

As an Alabama appellate lawyer, I often encounter people who want to withdraw their guilty plea in a criminal case. These defendants often say they showed up to go to trial on their criminal charges, only to have their lawyer pressure them into taking a plea bargain at the last minute. After having a little time to reflect on their decision, these defendants want to back out of the bargain and go to trial instead.

The good news is that there is a procedure for withdrawing a guilty plea in Alabama. The bad news is that the timetables and the legal standards for withdrawing the guilty plea are somewhat strict, and not every person who wants to revoke their plea bargain is going to be able to do so.

Rule 24 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that if a defendant desires to withdraw a guilty plea, the proper procedure is to file a Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea within 30 days of the date of sentencing. “In order to challenge the validity of a guilty plea on appeal, the issue must first be presented to the trial court by a timely objection, a motion to withdraw the guilty plea, or by a motion for new trial.” Grays v. State, 782 So. 2d 842 (Ala. 2000). A defendant has 30 days in which to file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Wallace v. State, 701 So. 2d 829 (Ala. Crim. App. 1998). If the defendant waits more than 30 days to file his or her motion, the trial court no longer has jurisdiction to rule on it. Ross v. State, 581 So. 2d 495 (Ala. 1991).

If you want to set aside a conviction based on a guilty plea and your 30 day time period has already passed. you may still have other options. For example, if you have evidence that you received ineffective assistance of counsel that caused you to plead guilty, you may have grounds for setting aside your conviction under Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. Note that in most situations, a Rule 32 petition must be filed within one year of the date that your conviction became final. There are issues that can create an exception to this rule such as where you are dealing with a void conviction, but most Rule 32 issues will be dismissed if they are not raised within a year. However, if you discover that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to sentence you (such as your conviction being based on a charge that had an expired statute of limitations, you would not be subject to that one-year rule.

To discuss your case to see whether you have grounds to withdraw your guilty plea or to file a Rule 32 petition, please call us toll free at (800) 737-3702 or fill out our Contact form to submit an online inquiry.

Alabama State Bar rules require the following disclaimer in all attorney advertisements: “No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of services provided by other attorneys.”

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