Griffin v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly S329a (Fla. May 16, 2013): Defendant entered a plea to murder in 1998. He filed a motion to withdraw plea in 2007. It was not timely filed and the denial of the motion was affirmed.
The Florida Supreme Court correctly stated Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.170(l), which permits a “defendant who pleads guilty or nolo contendere without expressly reserving the right to appeal a legally dispositive issue [to] file a motion to withdraw the plea within thirty days after rendition of the sentence, but only upon the grounds specified in Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.140(b)(2)(A)(ii)(a)-(e).” The Court noted that these grounds include an involuntary plea. However, once sentence has been imposed, a defendant must demonstrate a manifest injustice requiring correction in order to withdraw a plea. State v. Partlow, 840 So. 2d 1040 (Fla. 2003). The denial of a motion to withdraw plea is reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. White v. State, 15 So. 3d 833, 835 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009).
Regarding the fact that courts have broad discretion in determining motions to withdraw a plea, the Florida Supreme Court again correctly stated the law that a court should exercise that discretion liberally in favor of a defendant withdrawing his plea. See, e.g., Adler v. State, 382 So. 2d 1298, 1300 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980) (“A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty prior to imposition of sentence should be liberally construed in favor of the defendant.”). However, the Court noted, this is clearly the standard applicable to rule 3.170(f), which expressly states that a court has discretion in this matter “at any time before a sentence.” The Court noted its previous opinion in Partlow, explaining that subdivision (l), which applies to motions to withdraw a plea that are filed after sentencing, “allows withdrawal of a plea only on the limited grounds listed in Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.140(b).” 840 So. 2d at 1042. Thus, it was held that a court does not enjoy broad discretion as to motions filed after sentencing. The Florida Supreme Court noted that a number of district courts have correctly held that failure to file a motion to withdraw the plea within thirty days waives the issue for appellate review, and the defendant is limited to filing a motion pursuant to applicable Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 or 3.851. See, e.g., McKnight v. State, 964 So. 2d 803, 804 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007); Dayton v. State, 867 So. 2d 647 (Fla. 5th DCA 2004); Weidner v. State, 767 So. 2d 604 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000).
HELD: The trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Griffin’s rule 3.170(l) motion to withdraw plea and the Florida Supreme Court affirmed that ruling.
COMMENTARY: Not sure how why the FSSC made such a big deal about this issue. It is such a basic tent of law. However, it does provide a good analysis of some of the main case law on this issue.