Often, a defendant will enter into a guilty plea and then seek to withdraw the plea. Under the Texas Criminal Code, there are circumstances wherein a defendant can withdraw the plea. This may seem confusing, when someone admits guilt and then later on says he should be treated as an innocent man. This post will provide some color as to how the system allows for a withdrawal of a guilty plea.
Curtis Allgier is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in a Utah state prison. Algier was a resident of South Dakota who was arrested in Utah on a forgery charge and would have sat a maximum of 15 years. In 2007, police officer Stephen Anderson was transporting Algier to a hospital for some tests when Allgier was able to get a hold of Anderson’s gun and killed him. He fled but was caught 45 minutes later at an Arby’s.
The case drew national attention because of what transpired and because of Allgier’s appearance. Algier is a member of the Aryan Nations and sports several Nazi and white power tattoos. He has the words “Skin Head” tattooed across his forehead and has swastikas tattooed on his face.
Although he clearly identifies with the white power movement, he claims not to be part of a white power prison gang because he believes that those people are “weak.”
His murder trial was full of irregularities. He constantly quarreled with his court-appointed lawyers. His behavior slowed down the trial process. Eventually, in 2012, he entered a guilty plea in exchange for the prosecution not seeking the death penalty.
Later, he sought to withdraw the plea, claiming that he had ineffective assistance of counsel and would not have pleaded guilty had effective counsel advised him on the legal aspects of the case. In 2017, a Utah Appellate Court denied Allgier’s motion to withdraw his plea.
It must be noted that unlike the court of public opinion that disallows withdrawing a guilty plea, a court of law operates differently. A court of law provides for certain rules. If under those rules a person is found not guilty, the person gets off. Being not guilty in a court of law does not need to change public opinion.
The rules of the court allow for an amended pleading. When a defendant initially faces a criminal charge, he or she is asked to enter a plea, usually by the arraignment in a Texas Criminal Court. The Court will read the charges against the defendant, which will be broken into accounts. The defendant has the choice of pleading innocent or guilty to the charges, each charge on a separate basis.
After entering a plea, a defendant will have 21 days to amend the plea. After that, the defendant can only amend the plea under certain circumstances. While public opinion does not approve of an amended plea, it is nonetheless a strategic option available to a defendant.
A later post will further discuss amended pleadings.
Accused of a crime? Contact the criminal defense firm of Christopher Abel.
(image courtesy of Sebastian Pichler)