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Denial of Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea Affirmed

August 10, 2017

In Alexander v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea on grounds that his plea counsel did not inform him that, as a recidivist, he would not be eligible for parole.

The Court found that the defendant failed to prove that he had placed any particular emphasis on parole eligibility in deciding to enter the plea.

The defendant was attempting to withdraw his guilty plea to three counts of aggravated child molestation, three counts of child molestation, two counts of statutory rape, and two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes.

In his first appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the defendant could not prove that plea counsel was deficient in failing to discuss how the plea would render him ineligible for parole because this was merely a collateral consequence of the plea.

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed, holding that an attorney’s failure to inform his or her client about parole ineligibility for a lengthy prison sentence is constitutionally deficient performance.

On remand, the trial court once again denied the motion because the defendant failed to show how counsel’s deficient performance prejudiced him. At a hearing prior to the remand of the case, the defendant testified that he would not have accepted the guilty plea had he known he would not have been eligible for parole, however, the trial court discredited his testimony.

The Court of Appeals noted that the defendant did not place any emphasis on his parole eligibility and that no special circumstances existed that would cause him to place such an emphasis on it. Further, the Court considered the evidence of the defendant’s guilt and the fact that the defendant strongly believed he would receive a greater sentence after trial. Also, by entering a non-negotiated guilty plea, the Court found that the defendant assumed the risk of a lengthier sentence. Thus, the Court held that the trial court did not err in this determination.

As a result, the Court once again affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

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