Senator Craig pleaded guilty to that offense, but recently filed a motion to withdraw that plea. Today I will discuss the circumstances under which a criminal defendant may withdraw a plea.
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First, a disclaimer: Although I am an attorney, the legal information in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Further, I do not intend to create an attorney-client relationship with any listener.
On June 7, 2007, Idaho Senator Larry Craig was arrested on suspicion of lewd conduct arising from an incident where Senator Craig allegedly attempted to engage in sexual activity with an undercover police officer in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Senator Craig pleaded guilty to that offense, but recently filed a motion to withdraw that plea. Today I will discuss the circumstances under which a criminal defendant may withdraw a plea.
First, it is necessary to understand what pleading in a criminal case is. The Constitution guarantees to criminal defendants the right to due process and a trial. The due process right generally requires the government to inform the accused of the charges against him, and then the defendant has the right to a trial at which the government bears the burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime. However, a criminal defendant may waive his right to a jury trial, and simply plead guilty to the charge. When a defendant pleads guilty, he effectively accepts the truth of the charges by allowing the government to forego having to prove the charges.
But, a defendant may later withdraw his own plea. While there is no absolute right to withdraw a plea, courts will generally grant a motion to withdraw a plea where it would be manifestly unjust to allow the plea to stand. Various courts, both federal and state, have recognized circumstances that give rise to a manifest injustice.