1018 …On application of the defendant at any time before judgment or within six months after an order granting probation is made if entry of judgment is suspended, the court may, and in case of a defendant who appeared without counsel at the time of the plea the court shall, for a good cause shown, permit the plea of guilty to be withdrawn and a plea of not guilty substituted.
…This section shall be liberally construed to effect these objects and to promote justice.
PC 1018 is the California law that lets you withdraw a plea of “Guilty” or “No Contest” under some circumstances. In DUI cases, defendants will often agree to plead guilty in exchange for a deal that may include a reduced sentence, probation instead of jail time, or even a less serious charge than DUI. These plea bargains can be a very good choice if negotiated by a competent lawyer, but they can also be a bad choice—especially if you do not have a dedicated DUI lawyer advising you. Often, defendants don’t find out how bad the plea bargain is until after they have already plead guilty. This is when it may be appropriate to withdraw your plea.
How does withdrawing my plea work?
You can file a motion to withdraw the plea if:
- You entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere (no contest),
- You have not been sentenced yet, or, if you were given a probationary sentence, you are only 6 months or less into your sentence, and
- You have some legal grounds for withdrawing the plea
This last point is the most important one. You can’t just withdraw a guilty plea anytime you don’t like the consequences—if you could, everyone would do so and plea bargains would be meaningless. Instead, the court only takes your request seriously if you can demonstrate some legal reason why you were not properly informed when you first entered the plea.
When am I allowed to withdraw my plea?
Examples of a legal basis for withdrawing the plea can include:
- You did not understand the consequences of your plea because of a language barrier
- You had no lawyer when you agreed to the plea
- Your lawyer was incompetent
- Someone coerced or threatened you into entering the plea
- There were consequences you were not aware of when you entered the plea
Again, the last point is often the most important one. Imagine you agreed to a DUI plea deal and only found out later that it could affect your immigration status or get you deported. Or, you find out that you will lose your medical license, or other professional license, because of your DUI. If this was not explained to you, you may be able to withdraw the plea. You should ask a lawyer to help you.
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