Florida Criminal Procedure

Rules, Statutes, and Cases on Florida Criminal Procedure by Joe Bodiford, J.D., LL.M.

3.170. Pleas

criminal defense

RULE 3.170. PLEAS 

(a) Types of Plea; Court’s Discretion.  A defendant may plead not
guilty, guilty, or, with the consent of the court, nolo contendere. Except as
otherwise provided by these rules, all pleas to a charge shall be in open court
and shall be entered by the defendant. If the sworn complaint charges the
commission of a misdemeanor, the defendant may plead guilty to the charge at
the first appearance under rule 3.130, and the judge may thereupon enter
judgment and sentence without the necessity of any further formal charges
being filed. A plea of not guilty may be entered in writing by counsel. Every
plea shall be entered of record, but a failure to enter it shall not affect the
validity of any proceeding in the cause.

(b) Pleading to Other Charges. Having entered a plea in accordance
with this rule, the defendant may, with the court‘s permission, enter a plea of
guilty or nolo contendere to any and all charges pending against him or her in
the State of Florida over which the court would have jurisdiction and, when
authorized by law, to charges pending in a court of lesser jurisdiction, if the
prosecutor in the other case or cases gives written consent thereto. The court
accepting such a plea shall make a disposition of all such charges by judgment,
sentence, or otherwise. The record of the plea and its disposition shall be filed
in the court of original jurisdiction of the offense. If a defendant secures
permission to plead to other pending charges and does so plead, the entry of
such a plea shall constitute a waiver by the defendant of venue and all
nonjurisdictional defects relating to such charges.

(c) Standing Mute or Pleading Evasively.  If a defendant stands
mute, or pleads evasively, a plea of not guilty shall be entered.

(d) Failure of Corporation to Appear.  If the defendant is a
corporation and fails to appear, a plea of not guilty shall be entered of record.

(e) Plea of Not Guilty; Operation in Denial.  A plea of not guilty is a denial of every material allegation in the indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried.

(f) Withdrawal of Plea of Guilty or No Contest.  The court may in
its discretion, and shall on good cause, at any time before a sentence, permit a
plea of guilty or no contest to be withdrawn and, if judgment of conviction has
been entered thereon, set aside the judgment and allow a plea of not guilty, or,
with the consent of the prosecuting attorney, allow a plea of guilty or no contest
of a lesser included offense, or of a lesser degree of the offense charged, to be
substituted for the plea of guilty or no contest. The fact that a defendant may
have entered a plea of guilty or no contest and later withdrawn the plea may not
be used against the defendant in a trial of that cause.

(g) Vacation of Plea and Sentence Due to Defendant’s 
(1) Whenever a plea agreement requires the defendant to comply with some specific terms, those terms shall be expressly made a part of the plea entered into in open court.
(2) Unless otherwise stated at the time the plea is entered:

(A) The state may move to vacate a plea and sentence
within 60 days of the defendant‘s noncompliance with the specific terms of a
plea agreement.
(B) When a motion is filed pursuant to subdivision
(g)(2)(A) of this rule, the court shall hold an evidentiary hearing on the issue
unless the defendant admits noncompliance with the specific terms of the plea
(C) No plea or sentence shall be vacated unless the court
finds that there has been substantial noncompliance with the express plea
(D) When a plea and sentence is vacated pursuant to this
rule, the cause shall be set for trial within 90 days of the order vacating the plea
and sentence.

(h) Plea of Guilty to Lesser Included Offense or Lesser Degree.
The defendant, with the consent of the court and of the prosecuting attorney,
may plead guilty to any lesser offense than that charged that is included in the
offense charged in the indictment or information or to any lesser degree of the
offense charged.

(i) Plea of Guilty to an Offense Divided into Degrees;
Determination of the Degree.  When an indictment or information charges an
offense that is divided into degrees without specifying the degree, if the
defendant pleads guilty, generally the court shall, before accepting the plea,
examine witnesses to determine the degree of the offense of which the
defendant is guilty.

(j) Time and Circumstances of Plea.  No defendant, whether
represented by counsel or otherwise, shall be called on to plead unless and until
he or she has had a reasonable time within which to deliberate thereon.

(k) Responsibility of Court on Pleas.  No plea of guilty or nolo
contendere shall be accepted by a court without the court first determining, in
open court, with means of recording the proceedings stenographically or
mechanically, that the circumstances surrounding the plea reflect a full
understanding of the significance of the plea and its voluntariness and that there
is a factual basis for the plea of guilty. A complete record of the proceedings at
which a defendant pleads shall be kept by the court.

(l) Motion to Withdraw the Plea after Sentencing.  A defendant
who pleads guilty or nolo contendere without expressly reserving the right to
appeal a legally dispositive issue may 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) except as
provided by law.

(m) Motion to Withdraw the Plea after Drug Court Transfer.  A
defendant who pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a charge for the purpose of
transferring the case, pursuant to section 910.035, Florida Statutes, may file a
motion to withdraw the plea upon successful completion of the drug court
treatment program.

COMMENTARY:  Note, the standard for withdrawal of plea before sentencing is a showing of good cause.  After sentencing, the defendant must prove a “manifest injustice.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: