Withdrawing a Guilty Plea Before a Judge In Texas

The decision of whether to withdraw the guilty plea is left to the sound discretion of the trial court, and we, therefore, review the trial court's ruling under an abuse of discretion standard . See Graves v. State, 803 S.W.2d 342 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1990, pet. ref'd). When a defendant pleads guilty before a jury, the trial court must sua sponte withdraw the plea if evidence fairly raising an issue as to defendant's innocence arises before the defendant is found guilty. See Griffin v. State, 703 S.W.2d 193, 195 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986). A different rule applies, however, when a defendant pleads guilty before a judge. See Moon v. State, 572 S.W.2d 681, 682 (Tex. Crim. App. 1978). In this situation, even if the evidence raises an issue of the defendant's innocence, the trial court may find the defendant "guilty of a lesser offense and assess the appropriate punishment, or it may find the appellant not guilty." Id.; see Graves, 803 S.W.2d at 346. "Thus, because the trial court is the trier of fact, it serves no purpose to require it to withdraw a guilty plea, if the evidence raises an issue regarding defendant's innocence." See Edwards v. State, 921 S.W.2d 477, 480 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1996, no pet.).