As a criminal defense law firm practicing in the Jacksonville, Florida area, we get this question quite often. Sometimes, a person pleads guilty or no contest to a crime in Jacksonville the morning after the arrest without really knowing the consequences of the guilty or no contest plea, without really understanding the nature of the charges and evidence against him/her and without any meaningful discussion with a criminal defense attorney. Later, they may contact us and ask if there is a way to withdraw or reverse the guilty or no contest plea to the criminal charge.
There often is a way for a person who plead guilty or no contest to reverse or withdraw the plea. This is especially true for those people who plead guilty or no contest at their first appearance hearing the next day. In Jacksonville, Florida, the first appearance hearing takes place at J1, which is a courtroom attached to the jail. When a person gets arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, he/she will go in front of the judge the next morning or afternoon in J1. Many people plead guilty or no contest to their criminal charges in J1 on their own and later want to reconsider that decision or at least confer with a criminal defense attorney to find out if the guilty or no contest plea was the right thing to do.
In order for a plea of guilty or no contest to a charge to be legal and valid, the defendant must enter the plea voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. At the first appearance hearing the next day, the defendant does not really have an opportunity to thoroughly go over the case, the charges, the evidence and the ramifications of the sentence with a criminal defense lawyer. The judge is supposed to ask each defendant who is pleading guilty about his/her age, education, mental and physical conditions and prior experience with the criminal justice systems. The purpose of these questions is to get some assurance that the defendant who is pleading guilty without having spoken to a criminal defense lawyer knows what he/she is doing and what effects that decision may have. If those questions are not asked of the defendant when he/she pleads guilty or no contest to a criminal charge, the plea may not be valid. In that case, the defendant may be able to file a motion to withdraw the plea and have a chance to fight the charges.
If you have been arrested for a crime in the Jacksonville, Florida area, entered a plea of guilty or no contest and think you entered the plea without all of the necessary information and advice of a criminal defense attorney, feel free to contact us for a free consultation and we can discuss your case and whether you are able to withdraw your plea and fight the charges.