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Can I change my guilty plea to a not guilty?

Santa Rosa, CA |

I went in to a walk in court planning on getting more information and pleading not guilty, but the judge didn't really give me much information on my citation for drinking and driving underage and speeding. All the judge told me was that i had to pay a fine and that I would lose my license for a year, and I specifically asked if I would have to take any classes and he responded no. A couple weeks later I get a letter informing me that I have to take DDP classes. I also didn't know i was pleading guilty to a felony and because I did, I am now at risk of losing my job. I want to change my plea and see if I can get charged with only a misdemeanor because I only blew in at a .05% bac. Can I change my plea?

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Attorney answers 3


You should hire a lawyer who would reopen the case and then proceed as if this didn't happen. There should be a transcript, perhaps a recording of what occurred to substantiate your position.

A felony will follow you forever. Perhaps you are now a bit better educated, if none the wiser.


You should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. There are procedures for a defendant to try to withdraw a guilty plea. Based upon your description, it does not sound like you would a knowing and voluntary guilty plea. It sounds as if you did not understand the consequences of your guilty plea. An attorney can help you try to withdraw your previous plea of plea and have it reinstated to a plea of not guilty.

Juan Garcia Jr.
Attorney At Law


Your post is confusing because some things just don't add up. You need advice from a California attorney who will recognize these issues -- not just a "call a lawyer" response from an out-of-state attorney, like the ones above, who don' understand California DUI law.

First of all, it doesn't sound like you entered a plea to a felony. Driving with a blood alcohol level over .01% (Vehicle Code 23136) or .05% (Vehicle Code 23140) are infractions. So is speeding.

Alcohol classes are required for a 23140, and it results in two points on your driving record. A 23136 conviction doesn't require a class or result in points.

Even if your blood alcohol level was under .08%, you could still be prosecuted for driving when you were impaired by alcohol (Vehicle Code 23152(a).) However, courts almost always require a written plea form for DUI to prove you were advised of all of your rights, because the conviction could be used to increase the penalty for a future DUI conviction. (23136 and 23140 do not count as prior convictions in a future DUI prosecution.)

DUI is not a felony in California unless you have three or more prior DUI convictions in the past ten years, or you kill or injure someone.

What's more, a judge cannot accept a felony plea in California unless you are represented by an attorney, or you specifically give up your right to a lawyer and choose to represent yourself. I simply cannot imagine that a judge would strong-arm someone into pleading guilty to a felony at arraignment.

If the judge failed to advise you of the required classes, it might be grounds to withdraw your plea... but doing that would be far more expensive and time-consuming than just doing the class. Representing yourself in court without knowing the law is like working on your car when you don't know what you're doing; by the time you figure out you need professional help, you have to pay to fix what you messed up along the way, in addition to the original problem.

You should still consult with an attorney to see it it's worth the time and money to try to overturn this conviction... but, based on what you've posted, I doubt that it is.

Please understand that this is a general discussion of legal principles by a California lawyer and does not create an attorney/client relationship. It's impossible to give detailed, accurate advice based on a few sentences on a website (and you shouldn't provide too much specific information about your legal matter on a public forum like this, anyway). You should always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction who can give you an informed opinion after reviewing all of the relevant information.