Challenging conviction and restitution after plea deal

Author: LegalEase Solutions

QUESTION PRESENTED

(1)Whether Defendant can challenge restitution if he can prove the damages were in fact less than the $1,000 statutory amount? 

(2) Whether the Defense can have the Defendant resentenced as a misdemeanor offender if they can prove that he did not do the requisite amount of damage to be charged for a felony after he has already been charged with the felony?

 

SHORT ANSWER 

A defendant may not withdraw a plea based on actual innocence post sentencing and have a new charge instated, even if he offers compelling evidence is support of his innocence claim. Accordingly, Defendant in this case will not be able to withdraw his guilty plea for the felony charge. A defendant can challenge a restitution amount that exceeds the statutory maximum, however, in the instant case, the sentence does not exceed the statutory maximum and will not be deemed to because the guilty plea cannot be withdrawn. Accordingly, Defendant cannot withdraw his guilty plea or reduce the restitution amount.

 

RESEARCH FINDINGS

(1)Whether Defendant can challenge restitution if he can prove the damages were in fact less than the $1,000 statutory amount?

The Defendant will not be able to change his sentence because he will not be able to overturn the underlying charge. Normally, whenever a sentence imposed exceeds the statutory penalty provided for the offense charged, the sentence shall be changed to the lawful amount.  MCL 769.24 holds that:

Whenever, in any criminal case, the defendant shall be adjudged guilty and a punishment by fine or imprisonment shall be imposed in excess of that allowed by law, the judgment shall not for that reason alone be judged altogether void, nor be wholly reversed and annulled by any court of review, but the same shall be valid and effectual to the extent of the lawful penalty, and shall only be reversed or annulled on writ of error or otherwise, in respect to the unlawful excess.

MCL § 769.24

See also People v Whalen, 412 Mich 166, 169; 312 NW2d 638, 640 (1981)(“Clearly a sentence beyond statutory limits is invalid.”).

However, in our case, as is evidenced from the answer to the next question, the underlying charge will not change because Defendant will not be able to withdraw his guilty plea. Therefore, the sentence is not beyond statutory limits and is a proper sentence for the charge, which will not change. Accordingly, the sentence will not change.

(2) Whether they can have him recharged as a misdemeanor offender instead of a felony offender if they can prove that he did not do the requisite amount of damage to be charged for a felony after he has already been charged with the felony?

            No, in People v Sanford, the Supreme Court clarified that the claim of innocence is not a basis for withdrawing a guilty plea post sentencing. In an earlier disposition of the case by the same name, the Appellate Court found that a motion to withdraw a guilty plea post sentencing should be granted wherever a defendant can offer “compelling evidence of innocence.” People v Sanford, No. 291293, 2013 WL 5379673, at *3 (Mich Ct App September 26, 2013) vacated 495 Mich 989; 844 NW2d 725 (2014). On Appeal, the Supreme Court noted that the defendant’s ground of innocence was not a proper ground for withdrawing a guilty plea after the appeal because it did not constitute “an error in the plea proceeding” as specified under MCR 6.310(C), the court rule on withdrawing a guilty plea after sentencing. People v Sanford, 495 Mich 989, 989-90; 844 NW2d 725 (2014). The Defendant in the instant case is not arguing error in the plea proceeding, but is seeking to offer evidence of actual innocence post sentencing. Thus, if he moves to withdraw a plea at this point he is likely to be denied.

  1. C) Motion to Withdraw Plea After Sentence. The defendant may file a motion to withdraw the plea within 6 months after sentence. Thereafter, the defendant may seek relief only in accordance with the procedure set forth in subchapter 6.500. If the trial court determines that there was an error in the plea proceeding that would entitle the defendant to have the plea set aside, the court must give the advice or make the inquiries necessary to rectify the error and then give the defendant the opportunity to elect to allow the plea and sentence to stand or to withdraw the plea. If the defendant elects to allow the plea and sentence to stand, the additional advice given and inquiries made become part of the plea proceeding for the purposes of further proceedings, including appeals.

MI R RCRP MCR 6.310

CONCLUSION

To conclude, Defendant cannot challenge the restitution amount or withdraw his guilty plea for the offense charged.