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NJ Appellate Court Applies Test for Withdrawal of Guilty Plea in Criminal Case


by in Criminal Defense

In this recent appeal victory, the NJ Appellate Division discusses the factors courts consider when a a defendant wishes to withdraw a guilty plea in an NJ Criminal defense case.

State v. Matthew E. Pappas, unpublished opinion, App. Div. Docket No. A-5989-08T1 (December 17, 2010) – Denial of motion to withdraw guilty plea reversed.

“Because a principled consideration of the Slater [198 N.J. 145 (2009)] factors highly favored the granting of relief and because such applications when pursued prior to the imposition of sentence are to be liberally indulged, we reverse the denial of the motion to vacate the guilty plea…. The State contends that the first factor was not satisfied here because defendant expressed his guilt at the plea hearing and demonstrated at that time that he understood what he was waiving by pleading guilty…. [W]e agree it may be illuminating to examine what it was that the defendant said when entering the guilty plea in determining the sufficiency of the later assertion of innocence…. Here, however, defendant responded affirmatively to the very few leading questions put to him regarding the charges; in fact, as defendant correctly observes, defendant’s affirmative responses — when read literally — reveal only defendant’s acknowledgement of what was contained in the indictment, not what he allegedly did…. In considering the second Slater factor, we recognize that in most cases a defendant will likely assert the pressure and duress presented by the situation when seeking relief from a guilty plea…. It is difficult to assess the level of that stress but considering that the motion was to be liberally indulged, the record does not permit a determination that this factor favored denial of defendant’s motion. The third Slater factor provides some support for the State’s position. There is no dispute that the guilty plea was the product of an agreement. This factor, however, was not entitled to any great weight…. The fourth Slater factor not only requires a consideration of whether the State will be prejudiced but whether defendant will be advantaged by the granting of relief. Here, defendant has served the incarceration portion of the sentence. The only advantage defendant would obtain in the granting of relief would be the securing of an opportunity to have a jury determine whether he is guilty of the charged offense. No one is prejudiced by that consequence.”






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