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New Texas law allows guilty pleas made in jail to be set aside


If you’ve been arrested, and plead guilty to a class C misdemeanor while in jail, you may live to regret it.  When you’re arrested on a class C misdemeanor, or an outstanding warrant on a class C offense, you will typically be brought before a magistrate while in custody, who will ask you to enter a plea on your case.  Oftentimes, you may be told that if you plead “guilty” or “no contest,” you will be granted “time served” on your class C misdemeanor charge, and thereby released from jail.  For anyone who’s in jail, entering such a plea with the promise of being released from jail is a very tempting proposition.  However, doing so can have dire long-term consequences.  If you plead “guilty” or “no contest,” on a class C misdemeanor charge, you will be convicted of the offense.  Under Texas law, convictions cannot be expunged or otherwise removed from your criminal record.

On certain class C misdemeanors, such as theft under $50 and simple assault, a conviction can have disasterous affects that can last a lifetime.  With a conviction for theft or assault, many career opportunities will be forever closed.  You may never get that “dream job,” simply because of a one-time mistake.  Also, certain class C misdemeanor traffic ticket convictions can also have extremely negative consequences.  Depending upon the offense, and your driving record, a conviction for a class C misdemeanor traffic offense can result in drivers license suspension, increased insurance premiums, and the imposition of hefty surcharges by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

However, help is now available, thanks to a new Texas law (see below, particularly the portion of the statute I’ve italicized).  If you’ve entered a “guilty” or “no contest” plea on a class C misdemeanor, while in jail, it’s now possible to set that conviction aside by filing a motion for new trial.  Under this law, the judge is REQUIRED to overturn your conviction, so long as the motion for new trial is filed within ten days of the date on which the “guilty” or “no contest” plea was made.  Thus, if you find yourself in this situation, it’s critical that you act quickly.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 45.023. DEFENDANT’S PLEA. (a) After the jury is
impaneled, or after the defendant has waived trial by jury, the
defendant may:
(1) plead guilty or not guilty;
(2) enter a plea of nolo contendere; or
(3) enter the special plea of double jeopardy as
described by Article 27.05.
(b) If a defendant is detained in jail before trial, the
justice or judge may permit the defendant to enter any of the pleas
described by Subsection (a).
(c) If a defendant who is detained in jail enters a plea of
guilty or nolo contendere, the justice or judge may, after
complying with Article 15.17 and advising the defendant of the
defendant’s right to trial by jury, as appropriate:
(1) accept the defendant’s plea;
(2) assess a fine, determine costs, and accept payment
of the fine and costs;
(3) give the defendant credit for time served;
(4) determine whether the defendant is indigent; or
(5) discharge the defendant.
(d) Notwithstanding Article 45.037, following a plea of
guilty or nolo contendere entered under Subsection (b), a motion
for new trial must be made not later than 10 days after the
rendition of judgment and sentence, and not afterward. The justice
or judge shall grant a motion for new trial made under this