Vacating Guilty Pleas in Municipal Court

Frequently, individuals who plead guilty to an offense contact the attorneys at theWolf Law. Often times these individuals are unhappy with the results of their plea and inquire as to undoing to vacating their guilty pleas. To undo a guilty plea, an individual must first file a motion to withdraw the plea. If the motion is granted, the charges against the individual will be reinstated and the case will be returned to the court’s calendar.

The timing of a motion to withdraw a guilty plea is very important. Pursuant to New Jersey Court Rule 7:6-2(b), a motion to withdraw a guilty plea should be made prior to sentencing. A court, however, may permit a motion to withdraw a guilty plea to be made after sentencing if the individual meets the higher standard of showing that withdrawal of the plea would correct a “manifest injustice.” Demonstrating that withdrawal of the plea would correct a “manifest injustice” is not easy to do. For this reason, motions to vacate should be filed as soon as possible after a guilty plea is entered.

In determining whether or not a “manifest injustice” exists, the state Supreme Court in State v. Slater, outlined four factors that trial courts should analyze. Those factors include:

(1) Whether the defendant has demonstrated a claim of innocence;
(2) The defendant’s reasons for vacating the plea;
(3) Whether the defendant entered into a plea bargain; and
(4) Whether withdrawal would result in unfair prejudice to the State.

In evaluating these factors, courts may consider whether the defendant’s claim of innocence goes beyond a bare assertion, whether the defendant understood the nature and consequences of the charges, and whether an attorney, among other factors, represented the defendant. By way of example, if you were did not understand or were told incorrect information about the plea arrangement, if you were mistaken or did not understand your sentence, or if you did not fully understand the consequences of entering guilty, the court may vacate your guilty plea.

If you would like to vacate a guilty plea, contact our office immediately for a free consultation. The attorneys at theWolf Law are familiar with the plea withdrawal process and have helped numerous clients to vacate their guilty pleas.