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1st offense DUI (prescription drugs), public defender said I had to plea guilty. Do I HAVE to have a lawyer to change my plea?

Santee, CA |

I've been sentenced, hired a lawyer to help change my plea. After 6 weeks, lawyer still had nothing done so I ended contract. I had to borrow money for the lawyer, can't afford another. I had evidence I wasn't allowed to present and I thought the PD was looking out for my best interest, but after reading all the cases of 3rd and 4th DUI convictions where they get off, I think my conviction was unfair. The lawyer I hired said it is really difficult to change a plea after sentencing, meaning my case was extremely difficult. I find it hard to believe it would take so long and be so difficult. I'd like to appear before the judge and present the evidence I wasn't permitted to present. Is it possible to appear before the court without a lawyer?

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Attorney answers 5


You can appear without a lawyer, but it's not a good idea. It is difficult to withdraw your plea, but under the circumstances you are best advised to go back to the public defender and review your options. Have them take a short period of time to explain your options and possible outcomes.

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The judge's are usually very solid at locking defendants in to their guilty pleas. If the judge asked you several questions during your actual plea (i.e.- Have you discussed the facts of the case and defenses with your attorney) it will be difficult to go back in change it. The questions that they ask during a guilty plea will usual stop them from coming back to consider a change of plea. I'm sorry to hear about your current struggles. You should consider an attorney who will draft a motion and file it with the court. It's worth a try because it's your record on the line.


Like the others have said, it is very difficult to change a plea. Your "new" lawyer might have been taking so long because they were reviewing the records. It's not something that can happen overnight. All judges will ask if you have gone over potential defenses with your attorney. If you answered yes, you might be out of luck. If you feel certain evidence wasn't presented, there may not have been an opportunity to present it unless you took your case to trial, which it doesn't sound like you did.

Choosing to withdraw a plea because your deal is unfair compared to what others get will not pass as good cause. If you thought it was unfair, the judge will simply ask why you took the plea instead of going to trial.

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I didn't chose to withdraw my plea because my deal seemed unfair as compared to others. I don't have experience in this situation, and did not know I had other options as the only option presented to me was to take the guilty plea because the PD and DA had already met and decided my case before I ever got an opportunity to meet with my PD.

Matthew Murillo

Matthew Murillo


Then definitely speak to a few other attorneys about a plea withdrawal. It's not something you should attempt on your own, but you really need to research the attorneys. You need to do it quickly as there is only a short period of time to do so - 6 months after plea. It seems like you might be able to make a claim for good cause but, given what most judges ask during a plea, it will be difficult to show you didn't enter the plea knowingly.


What exactly are you trying to accomplish?

Unless you are willing to go all the way to trial in the unlikely event you are somehow successful in being permitted to withdraw your plea with this much time passing after sentencing, you are wasting your time and money.

Law Offices of David Shapiro 3555 4th Avenue San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 295-3555


You can appear without an attorney, but at best, you are likely to wind up in the same place you are now. At worst, you could actually cause further damage.

As others have said, once a plea is entered it is hard to change. I'm not saying you have to give up, but thing long and hard about what you are trying to accomplish and whether you are likely to succeed.

Good luck!

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