Can you retract a guilty plea in Georgia?

In today’s post, I discuss when a person can withdraw a guilty plea. Many people, for one reason or another, change their mind after pleading guilty to a crime and want to withdraw their plea. Georgian law only allows a guilty plea to be withdrawn under certain circumstances.

Withdrawing a guilty plea before sentencing

The first and easiest way to withdraw a guilty plea is to do it before the judge hands down a sentence. Georgia Code 17-7-93(b) grants a defendant the absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea so long as he does so before being convicted. This is especially true if the judge postpones the pronouncement of the sentence and calls a hearing for the pronouncement of the sentence. Often, however, a defendant is convicted immediately after he has pleaded guilty. Whether an action can be withdrawn after the judgment is at the discretion of the judge.

Withdrawing a guilty plea after the verdict was handed down

Withdrawing a guilty plea becomes much more difficult after someone has been convicted of a case. Under the Uniform Superior Court Rules, a judge can withdraw a post-judgment complaint, but only to correct an “apparent injustice.” Any pleadings made by a criminal suspect must be knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently made. This basically means that the person must have been in their right mind and not been deceived, tricked, misled or coerced into asking. A request that is not made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently would be a manifest injustice.

In addition, the request for withdrawal must be filed within the same court time that the cause of action was originally filed. (In many counties in Georgia there is a court term about every 3 months). After the deadline, filing a habeas corpus request is the only possible remedy.

It’s also worth noting that objections under the First Offender Act or objections in drug court (or any sort of deferred conviction) cannot be withdrawn. This is because there is no actual conviction in the case, which renders the law inapplicable.

bottom line

If you or someone you know is considering withdrawing a guilty plea, consult a Georgia criminal defense attorney to better understand your options. A person may be able to withdraw an application if it was done before the conviction or if the judge determines that not allowing the withdrawal would be a manifest injustice.