Motion to Withdraw a Guilty Plea In Delaware
Before accepting a guilty plea the trial court must engage the defendant in a series of questions in open court in order to determine the voluntariness of the plea.
A motion to withdraw a guilty plea after sentence is imposed is reviewable only for manifest injustice. Justice of the Peace Criminal Rule 32(d).
The burden of proving manifest injustice is on the defendant. State v. Insley, Del. Supr., 51 Del. 196, 141 A.2d 619, 622, 1 Storey 196 (1958).
The decision rests in the discretion of the trial court, and is only reviewable under an abuse of discretion standard. Id.
To grant the application, the trial court must find that the plea was entered into either involuntarily or entered under a misapprehension of his legal rights. Id.
"If such circumstances may be proved, the application should be readily granted." Id.
Whenever a guilty plea is entered, the record should make it "indisputably clear that the requirement of Criminal Rule No. 11 has been complied with." Brown v. State, Del. Supr., 250 A.2d 503, 504 (1969).
Following Rule No. 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Brown states that whenever "a guilty plea is offered, the trial judge should insure by direct interrogation of the defendant that the record demonstrates compliance". Id. at 505.
The Delaware Supreme Court has directly applied Brown to the Justice of the Peace Courts. State v. Casto, Del. Supr., 375 A.2d 444, 448 (1977).
According to Casto, before a Magistrate may accept a guilty plea:
The Justice of the Peace shall determine that such a plea is knowingly and intelligently made by direct interrogation of the defendant to show that:
(1) the Magistrate has explained the charge to defendant who has made an intelligent statement in open court that he is aware of all the essential elements of the offense.
(2) Defendant understands that he has rights to a speedy trial, to cross-examine the State's witnesses, to present witnesses on his own behalf, and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, all of which ware waived by a plea of guilty.
(3) Defendant understands the consequences of entering a plea of guilty, including particularly, the possibility of incarceration.
(4) the guilty plea has not been induced by any promise or representation as to what will be imposed, nor by threat or coercion.
(5) Defendant voluntarily enters the plea and is in fact guilty of the charge or, if he is unable or unwilling to admit guilt, that there is a factual basis for the plea.(6) Defendant understands that by pleading guilty he will waive any right which he may have to appeal a conviction to the Superior Court.Id. at 449.
Delaware courts insist on an adequate plea colloquy before a valid guilty plea is entered. a guilty plea constitutes a waiver of fundamental constitutional rights. Id.
This colloquy allows the judge to make a determination on whether the guilty plea is knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently made. Brown, 250 A.2d at 504.