Challenging a Plea

Suppose that after judgment is entered a defendant wants to challenge a plea. Maybe he alleges that the plea wasn’t knowing and voluntary. Or maybe he claims that the judge imposed an illegal sentence. Can the defendant do this? I like to break this question into two parts: (1) Does the claim survive the plea? (2) If so, what procedural mechanism can be used to assert it? This post addresses both issues.

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Advising a Defendant of the Maximum Possible Sentence During a Habitual Felon Plea

When a defendant pleads guilty, the judge is required to “inform[] him of the maximum possible sentence” associated with his offense. G.S. 15A-1022(a)(6). When a defendant pleads guilty to being a habitual felon, he must be informed of the maximum sentence he faces as a habitual felon, because the enhanced sentence is a “direct consequence … Read more


Claims That Survive an Unconditional Guilty Plea

A lot of defendants plead guilty. And many of those defendants later try to challenge their pleas through the post-conviction process. Not surprisingly then, I get a lot of questions about what types of claims can be asserted in a motion for appropriate relief (MAR) challenging an unconditional guilty plea. As a general rule, a … Read more


Overstating Possible Punishment and the (In)voluntary Nature of the Plea — Part II

In a blog post here, I wrote about overstating possible punishment and the voluntary nature of a plea. In that post, I discussed the dangers of overstating the possible maximum sentence with respect to consecutive sentences and recent changes to post-release supervision. That post prompted questions about a related issue. Here’s the set up: At … Read more


Overstating Possible Punishment and the (In)voluntary Nature of the Plea

In a post here discussing application of post-release supervision periods to multiple sentences Jamie raised the question of whether over-advising a defendant as to the maximum possible sentence associated with pending charges can undercut the knowing, voluntary and intelligent nature of a plea. Let’s recap the issue. Suppose a defendant is contemplating pleading guilty to … Read more