“I agreed to a bargain of a prison term and I got a strike, but I did not do anything wrong and I regret taking this deal. I was accused of ADW by a man who was stalking me. He called 911 claiming I was trying to run him over w my car and pressed charges. Which is false. He did it out of spite. There were no injuries. No evidence. My lawyer ran out on me. What can I do?”
What you are really asking is this: Can I withdraw my no contest or guilty plea? Before I answer, let me lay out the law; our legal vehicle is Cal. Penal Code 1018:
“…On application of the defendant at any time before judgment or within six months after an order granting probation is made if entry of judgment is suspended, the court may, and in case of a defendant who appeared without counsel at the time of the plea the court shall, for a good cause shown, permit the plea of guilty to be withdrawn and a plea of not guilty substituted. Upon indictment or information against a corporation a plea of guilty may be put in by counsel. This section shall be liberally construed to effect these objects and to promote justice.”
It appears that the court entered judgment, to wit a prison term; this also means that your bench officer did not grant probation. Is 1018 still available for you? Yes, although section 1018 is limited on its face to the period before judgment, California courts allow the accused to move to set aside the judgment as a means of allowing the defendant to withdraw the guilty plea after judgment. See People v. Wadkins (1965) 63 Cal.2d 110, 113-114, 45 Cal.Rptr. 173, 403 P.2d 429; People v. Schwarz (1927) 201 Cal. 309, 314, 257 P. 71; People v. Caruso (1959) 174 Cal.App.2d 624, 633, 345 P.2d 282; People v. Grgurevich (1957) 153 Cal.App.2d 806, 810, 315 P.2d 391; People v. Smink (1930) 105 Cal.App. 784, 790, 288 P. 873.)
In short, you must show “good cause” to withdraw your plea and the court has the discretion to grant or deny your request; it appears that your section 1018 “good cause” basis may be factual innocence. Innocence is a proper 1018 “good cause” ground. Ordinarily, trial courts grant PC 1018 motions, “where there is doubt of defendant’s guilt.” See People v. Butler, 70 Cal.App.2d 553, 561, 161 P.2d 401 (1945) (holding that courts are generally liberal on motions to withdraw when the defendant supports his or her innocence); cf. People v. Beck, 188 Cal.App.2d 549, 10 Cal.Rptr. 396 (1961) (noting that doubt as to guilt is a proper PC § 1018 basis; but, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it ruled defendant’s statements alone were not clear and convincing). You will have to prove that you are innocent by clear and convincing evidence; that is difficult whether you are innocent or not.
Please note: If you are successful in your 1018 motion to withdraw post-judgment (through your lawyer), then the case is open once again and you have the very same pre-guilty plea options – jury trial or negotiate. And, yes, you can always ask for an extension to surrender later, after your son’s graduation. Good luck, I hope this helps. Andrew.