Some things sound like a good idea at the time, but later turn out to be a bad decision.  This is often true when a defendant enters a guilty plea in a criminal case or traffic court.  The question becomes: can you change your mind?  The answer is, yes under the right circumstances.

When Can You Take It Back?

As established in 2009 in the case of State v. Slater, the Supreme Court developed guidelines for trial judges presented with this type of request by a defendant.  In addition to standards set forth in the court rules, the court added a four-part balancing test.  Judges must consider:

  1. Whether the defendant has asserted a reasonable claim of innocence;
  2. The nature and strength of his reasons for withdrawal;
  3. the existence of a plea bargain; and
  4. whether withdrawal of the plea would result in an unfair disadvantage to the State or unfair advantage to the defendant.

The Justices stated that trial courts should consider and balance all of these points in ruling on a defendant's request, yet not all four factors must be met.

One instance in which this comes up is where foreign nationals plead guilty to crimes and then find themselves being deported (surely an unintended consequence of the plea).  Therefore, any plea of guilty to a crime or traffic offense should be entered into with great care and caution.

However, should the need arise, it is good to know that there is a "litmus test" for trial court judges in considering this type of request by a defendant.

So What Should I Do?

If you plead guilty to a traffic court offense here in southern New Jersey and are suffering from "pleader's remorse," please feel free to call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment for a free consultation in my Woodbury office.

If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's traffic laws, then download my free book, A Guide to Driving Legally in NJ, and Surviving Traffic Court If You Don't.

Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.