Pleading guilty to a crime because you have no better alternative can be a traumatic experience. This experience can be even more frightening if you opted for a plea bargain but received a post-conviction sentence that you did not anticipate. The appeals process in Pennsylvania is complicated and filled with various deadlines that are difficult to keep track of. If you or a family member has pleaded guilty to a crime and you are wondering if you can appeal the sentence, you should speak with an experienced defense lawyer immediately. Philadelphia criminal appeals attorney Lloyd Long is here to explain whether you can appeal a sentence after pleading guilty in Pennsylvania.
Types of Guilty Pleas in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has two types of guilty pleas that a defendant can utilize – a negotiated guilty plea and an open (or non-negotiated) guilty plea. A negotiated guilty plea occurs when the defendant and the prosecution agree to an arrangement where the defendant will plead guilty, and the prosecution will recommend a sentence for the judge to impose in return. A negotiated guilty plea usually means a lowered sentence for cooperation or information. This can lower the charge from a felony offense to a misdemeanor in exchange for a guilty plea.
The terms of a negotiated plea deal must be stated in open court in front of the defendant. When entering into a negotiated plea deal, the defendant should be aware that the judge is not bound by the terms of the agreement. The judge has the discretion to reject the plea deal. Additionally, the judge can also compel you to negotiate another plea deal or take your case to trial. The judge must personally question the defendant to determine whether they understand and consent to the terms of the plea deal.
An open guilty plea occurs when a defendant pleads guilty to criminal charges without any kind of arrangement with the prosecution. The prosecution’s initial charges may be too high, and the defendant should have their attorney negotiate a plea agreement rather than make an open plea to the charges, as-is. An open guilty plea allows the defense and the prosecution to present witnesses and evidence at a sentencing hearing. At the conclusion of these arguments, the judge will decide the sentence.
Appealing Your Sentence After a Guilty Plea
If you pled guilty to a crime, you generally cannot appeal the sentence handed down by the judge. This is because plea deals typically waive your right to appeal once you have agreed to the terms. Therefore, you should completely understand all the consequences of your plea deal and be satisfied with them. However, you may have other options at your disposal.
A defendant who wishes to withdraw their guilty plea must do so before the sentence is handed down by the judge. A motion to withdraw your guilty plea allows a defendant to request the judge for permission to rescind their plea. The motion must be in writing and must identify a “fair and just reason” to rescind the plea. The court does not provide for specific examples of “fair and just” reasons to withdraw a plea, but you should consider consulting with an experienced post-conviction and sentencing attorney who can help you offer valid reasons for a plea withdrawal.
If you wish to file a motion to withdraw your guilty plea, you should file the motion as quickly as possible. However, you should be aware that once you withdraw your guilty plea, you will have to go to trial.
If you need to discuss other options regarding a negotiated plea deal, you should speak with an experienced criminal attorney immediately. Depending on the circumstances of your case, there may be certain options available to you that can help you pursue a more favorable legal outcome.
If you have entered a guilty plea and are now regretting your decision, you may have opportunities to revisit your decision. It is important to remember that these opportunities are time-restricted – and that you must move quickly if you wish to take back your guilty plea.
Philadelphia Criminal Appeals Lawyer Lloyd Long Can Help
If you or a family member would like to withdraw your guilty plea in a criminal case, you should consult with a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer. Lloyd Long has extensive experience dealing with criminal appeals and various types of criminal procedures, and he will put his experience to work for you. Lloyd Long handles cases in Philadelphia and is prepared to represent you with dedication and persistence. To schedule a free consultation, call the Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171, or contact us online.