After a person is charged with a criminal offense, the court will conduct various hearings, including one in which the defendant is asked to enter a plea. While a person’s first inclination is usually to plead not guilty, in some cases, it makes sense to enter a guilty plea. Even if pleading guilty is the best strategy, it is not a decision to be made lightly, as it can have significant ramifications. Thus, the court must ensure that a defendant who wishes to enter a guilty plea is making an educated and consensual decision to do so; otherwise, the plea may be deemed involuntary. The criteria for establishing an involuntary guilty plea were the topic of a recent Washington ruling in a case in which the defendant was convicted of assault. If you are accused of assault, it is wise to speak to a Washington assault defense lawyer to evaluate your options.
Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes relating to the death of the victim. After the charges had been pending for over a year, the State filed an amended information with nine charges, including first-degree assault with a firearm. Several months later, the defendant agreed to plead guilty to a count of second-degree assault and a count of first-degree manslaughter.
Allegedly, the defendant provided a written statement at the plea hearing that asserted he was guilty of second-degree assault because he assaulted the victim. The court reviewed the plea statement with the defendant and confirmed that he had reviewed it with his attorney. Thus, the defendant was found guilty as charged. He later appealed, arguing that his plea was involuntary.
Proving a Guilty Plea was Involuntary
Generally, the Washington Rules of Criminal Procedure require that pleas are made voluntarily, competently, and with an understanding of the nature of the charged offense and the ramifications of the plea. The Rules also dictate that the court must determine there is a factual basis for the plea.
In the subject case, the defendant argued that his plea was invalid because it did not meet these criteria. The court disagreed, noting that the record indicated that the defendant understood his plea and that the plea comported with the amended information. Further, the court stated that there was nothing in the record that suggested the defendant was confused or lacked the ability to understand the proceedings. As such, the court found there was no basis for overturning the plea as involuntary.
Meet with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Washington
There are often numerous strategies criminal defendants can employ in pursuit of a favorable outcome, but in some instances, the best option is to enter a guilty plea. If you are charged with an assault offense, you should meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Washington assault defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White can advise you of your rights and develop a strategy designed to help you seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can reach us via our form online or by calling 253-203-1645 to set up a meeting.