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Rules for Withdrawing a Guilty Plea after Sentencing

The Florida Supreme Court in Campbell v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly S727a (Fla. 2013) found that a defendant is not entitled to withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere following the rendition of a sentence, based solely on the trial court's failure to formally accept the plea as set forth in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure.

Specifically, the issue before the Court was whether a defendant may, after sentencing, withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere based solely upon a trial court's failure to formally accept the plea as set forth in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.172(g) without a showing that the trial court's failure to formally accept the plea caused manifest injustice or clear prejudice.

The court affirmed the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal which held that Campbell was not entitled to withdraw his plea under these circumstances. The actual sentencing of the defendant is a sufficient affirmative statement to the parties made in open court and on the record as to constitute formal acceptance of a plea under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.172(g).

Further, actual sentencing adequately evidences the finality in the proceedings, the point at which litigation comes to an end and the right to withdraw a plea is revoked. The court answered the re-stated question presented in the negative. A defendant is not entitled to withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere following the rendition of a sentence, based solely on the trial court's failure to formally accept the plea as set forth in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.172(g). Rule 3.170(l) applies to motions to withdraw pleas that are filed after sentencing and this Court has continually found that a showing of manifest injustice or prejudice is required. The court approved the decision of the Second District in Campbell v. State, 75 So. 3d 757 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011) and disapproved the First District's decision in Cox v. State, 35 So. 3d 47 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010).

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