FAQs - Appeals From Guilty Pleas

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Click through the catagories on the left for answers to some common questions.

If your question is not answered here, please contact us at (212) 693-0085. For individual attorney extensions, please refer to our staff page.

What issues can I raise if I pled guilty?

In general, there are far fewer issues that can be raised on appeal following a guilty plea than following a trial. Some issues that arose before a guilty plea are automatically waived when you plead guilty, and therefore cannot be raised on appeal. These include issues based on state statutory rights, such as 30.30 (state speedy trial) and 40.20 (state double jeopardy), and issues that relate to what would occur at a trial, such as severance or Sandoval issues.
 
For the most part, constitutional issues litigated prior to a guilty plea and decided at or after a suppression hearing can be raised on appeal. However, if you pled guilty before the court rendered a formal decision on a suppression issue, or if your plea bargain included a valid waiver of your right to appeal, you cannot raise the suppression issue on appeal.
 
In general, if you pled guilty and did not get the minimum sentence allowed by law, you can seek a sentence reduction on appeal. However, if part of your plea bargain included a waiver of your right to appeal your sentence, and if the waiver was valid, then you cannot seek a sentence cut on appeal.

Can I withdraw my guilty plea on appeal?

 You cannot withdraw your guilty plea on appeal simply because you changed your mind after pleading guilty. If the record of your guilty plea indicates that the plea was entered improperly, you may be able to seek plea withdrawal, but doing so may subject you to the risk of a longer sentence. If you think you might have grounds for plea withdrawal and wish to withdraw your guilty plea, you should let your attorney know.

For the most part, constitutional issues litigated prior to a guilty plea and decided at or after a suppression hearing can be raised on appeal. However, if you pled guilty before the court rendered a formal decision on a suppression issue, or if your plea bargain included a valid waiver of your right to appeal, you cannot raise the suppression issue on appeal.
 
In general, if you pled guilty and did not get the minimum sentence allowed by law, you can seek a sentence reduction on appeal. However, if part of your plea bargain included a waiver of your right to appeal your sentence, and if the waiver was valid, then you cannot seek a sentence cut on appeal.

What risks do I face if I try to withdraw my guilty plea?

The answer to this question may be very complicated, and you should discuss it thoroughly with your attorney, who will be in the best position to advise you. It will depend on what you were charged with, what you pled guilty to, whether any additional indictments or investigations were “covered” by your guilty plea, what sentence you received, what the permissible sentencing range is for the various counts involved, and what your chances are of being convicted or acquitted at a trial.
 
The actual risk will vary greatly from case to case. The following, however, will provide some general information:
 
If you succeed in withdrawing your guilty plea on appeal, you will be placed back in the position you were in before you pled guilty. In other words, the charges that were pending against you at that time will be revived. In order to know how great a risk you face, you must consider all the counts of the indictment under which you pled and any other indictments, pending charges, or pending investigations that were “covered” by your guilty plea, because you are likely to face all these again.
 
In most cases, the District Attorney is not willing to make a more favorable plea offer than he was in the first place. He could force you to choose between pleading guilty to the entire indictment and going to trial. If you went to trial and were convicted, especially of a higher count or additional counts, you might end up with a longer prison sentence than the one you are currently serving.
 
If you pled guilty after losing a suppression hearing, the risks might be different. If you win the suppression issue on appeal, the District Attorney would not be able to use the suppressed evidence against you at a new trial. If that evidence was extremely important to the People's case, they might be unable to try you, or they might be willing to give you a better plea offer than you got the first time around. If you decided to go to trial, your chances of acquittal might be better than they were originally.
 
On the other hand, if the evidence suppressed on appeal is relatively minor, the People might still be able to get a conviction without it. In that situation, what was a good plea deal originally might remain a good plea deal even with the evidence suppressed. Then it might not be worthwhile for you to pursue the suppression issue on your appeal.