Can I withdraw a plea bargain?

In New Hampshire and nearly every other state, it’s quite common to resolve a criminal case through a plea bargain. According to the American Bar, a plea bargain usually involves the defendant’s pleading guilty to a lesser charge, or to only one of several charges. It also may involve a guilty plea as charged, with the prosecution recommending leniency in sentencing. The judge, however, is not bound to follow the prosecution’s recommendation. However in New Hampshire, unlike in some other jurisdictions, if the judge does not choose to follow the sentencing recommendation, the defendant has the right to withdraw their proposed guilty plea and still go to trial.

It’s not uncommon for a defendant to plead guilty, then change their mind. Sometimes they think they might have a better chance with a jury, other times they pled guilty or took a plea because they were under pressure. Whatever the reason, it may be possible to withdraw your guilty plea.

Before you consider withdrawing, it’s important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the circumstances of your plea and whether a withdrawal is a possibility.

What Are the Steps in a Plea Agreement?

In New Hampshire, entering into a plea agreement typically means you’re getting some sort of benefit or a lesser punishment. When you are deciding whether to enter into a plea agreement, you need to consider all your options. Always talk to your attorney before agreeing to anything. Your defense attorney can also negotiate with the prosecutor to try to get the most favorable deal possible.

The steps involved in entering into a plea bargain include:

  • Negotiating with the prosecutor – always talk to your attorney, who is generally the one to speak with the prosecutor directly
  • The preparation of a written statement the details what you’re actually pleading guilty to.
  • Making your plea in open court
  • The Judge accepting your plea agreement in your criminal case
  • The opportunity to make a statement and present evidence on your behalf before sentencing
  • Sentencing by the judge, who is not required to follow the prosecutor’s recommendation (but who usually must give you the right to withdraw your plea if they intend to sentence more harshly)

Can you withdraw your guilty plea before the judge accepts it?

If a judge has not accepted your guilty plea, then you’re in the clear and can withdraw your guilty plea. If at any time during the negotiation process you want to back out, you can do so. This includes when the agreement is being negotiated, when the written  agreement is being prepared, and even in the middle of the hearing, before the plea is entered

Your Right to Withdraw Your Guilty Plea After the Court Accepts it

After a judge accepts your guilty plea, it’s much more difficult to take it back. If you change your mind before or after sentencing, then you and your attorney will be burdened with proving certain things.


In some cases, you’ll have a pre-sentencing hearing after you plead guilty. If you can show a fair and just reason to withdraw your plea before you’re sentenced, then you may be able to have your plea withdrawn. There are several things the judge will consider, including what your reason for the withdrawal is, the length of time between your plea and when you requested the withdrawal, and whether you had an attorney at the time you pled guilty.


After you are sentenced, it is much more difficult to withdraw a guilty plea. The burden would fall on you and your attorney to prove that it would be manifestly unjust to enter a guilty plea given the circumstances of your case. This standard of proof is much harder to prove.

Common Reasons the Judge Could Agree to Withdraw Your Plea

Judges consider a request to withdraw a guilty plea for many reasons. Here are some of the most common that they consider:

  • Your lawyer failed to explain all of the evidence against you
  • Your lawyer failed to explain all of the rights you waived by pleading guilty or the consequences of the plea
  • You did not have an attorney when you pled guilty and the Judge did not explain all of your rights or the consequences of your plea
  • You were mentally incompetent to enter your plea. This could mean you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or were suffering from a psychological condition
  • You did not consent to the plea
  • New facts were discovered that offer a stronger defense than you had before
  • You were manipulated or threatened in order to get you to plead guilty

Are You Looking for a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Concord, New Hampshire?

If you still need help with the answer to the question: Can I withdraw a plea bargain? Or if you’re facing criminal charges or have a friend or family member in need of help, contact us. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers can help you understand the situation you’re in and determine how we can work towards the most favorable outcome possible.

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