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Vacating Plea Agreements

Motions to vacate plea agreements are an increasingly common option in a Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney’s toolbox. Plea agreements allow a criminal defendant to plead guilty or, in some instances, no contest to allow him or her to accept a set punishment and avoid a trial by a jury or judge. Plea agreements are often favorable because they can guarantee a smaller amount of time (or no time whatsoever) in jail, notes Broward criminal attorney Moore.

A subsequent motion to vacate the previous plea agreement can occur for a number of reasons. Most commonly, a criminal defendant is not advised of possible direct or collateral consequences of taking the plea agreement. There is also the possibility that the defendant is not fit to accept a plea agreement; if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time the parties entered into the plea, for example, the defendant may be rendered unable to agree to its terms, according to Broward criminal lawyer Moore.

Other problems can occur when the criminal defendant is unaware of potential consequences, such as a convicted felon who will then lose the right to own firearms and other types of weapons. Felons also lose the right to vote.

Immigration consequences are another important reason why a person may want to vacate a prior plea and conviction. If the defendant was not a U.S. citizen and was not advised of the possibility of deportation associated with many pleas (such as domestic violence, theft, drugs, and numerous other charges).

An experienced Broward criminal attorney can explain, in relation to the facts of your particular case, the merits of vacating a prior plea agreement and the resultant conviction. A clean or relatively uneventful post-conviction record makes it more likely that the motion will be granted, although constitutional deficiencies during the plea process should generally result in the vacating of the plea. Even so, the prosecution may still go forward with the case. Sometimes, however, due to the passage of time, the State Attorney’s Office may elect to nolle prosse (dismiss) the charge.

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