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Last week we talked about vacating criminal convictions and some of the circumstances that can justify vacating a verdict. Juror misconduct, a biased court and an improperly-handled plea deal are all factors that can lead a court to vacate a conviction, treating the trial and the ruling as if they never happened.

We talked about how prosecutors cannot violate a plea agreement, even if they regret their decision to handle the case a certain way. Plea deals are binding for all parties, but what happens if you plea guilty to a crime and later regret it?

While you can't just go to the judge and say, "My mistake, can we change that?" it is sometimes possible to withdraw a guilty plea. You will usually need to file a motion to vacate the plea. You must meet certain requirements and follow the proper legal procedure. Even if your motion is pristine and you have a good reason to withdraw the plea, you may have to go before a judge and justify your motion.

The judge will usually consider a number of factors when deciding whether to vacate your plea. They will likely look at whether the original plea deal was fair and if you have a legitimate claim of innocence at the time of the motion. Other considerations may include whether withdrawing the plea would hurt the state's case or be unfair to any party.

If you are the subject of a criminal investigation or trial it is important to act quickly to make sure your rights are protected. It is always wise to enlist the help of an experienced defense attorney. He or she can work with you closely to understand the charges against you, fight them intelligently and pursue a fair result.

Source: The FindLaw Blotter, "How to Withdraw a Guilty Plea," Andrew Lu, Feb. 6, 2013

To learn more about criminal charges in Missouri, please visit our website.

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