Rule 591. Withdrawal of Plea of Guilty or Nolo Contendere.
(A) At any time before the imposition of sentence, the court may, in its discretion, permit, upon motion of the defendant, or direct, sua sponte, the withdrawal of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere and the substitution of a plea of not guilty.
(B) When a defendant moves for the withdrawal of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, the attorney for the Commonwealth shall be given 10 days to respond.
Under paragraph (A), when a defendant moves to withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, ordinarily the motion should be filed in writing before the date of the sentencing hearing. For the procedures governing motions, see Chapter 5 Part F(1). However, nothing in this rule would preclude a defendant from making an oral and on-the-record motion to withdraw a plea at the sentencing hearing prior to the imposition of sentence.
When the defendant orally moves to withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere at the sentencing hearing, the court should conduct an on-the-record colloquy to determine whether a fair and just reason to permit the withdrawal of the plea exists. If the court finds that there is not a fair and just reason, then the motion should be denied, and the court should proceed to sentencing. If the court finds that there may be a fair and just reason, then pursuant to paragraph (B), the court must give the attorney for the Commonwealth 10 days to respond to the motion.
Under paragraph (B), the trial court may not permit the withdrawal of a guilty plea or plea of nolo contendere until the expiration of the 10 days from the date on which the attorney for the Commonwealth receives the defendants motion to withdraw the plea, unless the attorney for the Commonwealth responds prior to the expiration, nor may it compel the attorney for the Commonwealth to respond prior to the expiration of the 10-day period.
After the attorney for the Commonwealth has had an opportunity to respond, a request to withdraw a plea made before sentencing should be liberally allowed. See Commonwealth v. Randolph, 553 Pa. 224, 718 A.2d 1242 (1998); Commonwealth v. Forbes, 450 Pa. 185, 299 A.2d 268 (1973).
When a defendant is permitted to withdraw a guilty plea or plea of nolo contendere under this rule and proceeds with a non-jury trial, the court and the parties should consider whether recusal might be appropriate to avoid prejudice to the defendant. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Pierce, 515 Pa. 153, 527 A.2d 973 (1987).
For a discussion of plea withdrawals when a guilty plea or plea of nolo contendere includes a plea agreement, see the Comment to Rule 590.
For the procedures for withdrawal of guilty pleas entered before a magisterial district judge in a court case, see Rule 550(D).
Rule 320 adopted June 30, 1964, effective January 1, 1965; Comment added June 29, 1977, effective September 1, 1977; Comment revised March 22, 1993, effective January 1, 1994; Comment deleted August 19, 1993, effective January 1, 1994; new Comment approved December 22, 1995, effective July 1, 1996; amended July 15, 1999, effective January 1, 2000; renumbered Rule 591 and Comment revised March 1, 2000, effective April 1, 2001; Comment revised January 6, 2014, effective March 1, 2014.
Committee Explanatory Reports:
Committee Note explaining the August 12, 1993 deletion of the Comment published with the Courts Order at 23 Pa.B. 4215 (September 4, 1993).
Final Report explaining the new Comment approved on December 22, 1995 published with the Courts Order at 26 Pa.B. 8 (January 6, 1996).
Final Report explaining the July 15, 1999 amendments concerning the requirements for the withdrawal of a plea published with the Courts Order at 29 Pa.B. 4057 (July 31, 1999).
Final Report explaining the March 1, 2000 reorganization and renumbering of the rules published with the Courts Order at 30 Pa.B. 1478 (March 18, 2000).
Final Report explaining the January 6, 2014 revision to the Comment cross-referencing Rule 550 published with the Courts Order at 44 Pa.B. 478 (January 25, 2014).
The provisions of this Rule 591 amended January 6, 2014, effective March 1, 2014, 44 Pa.B. 477. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (363264) and (363591).
PART I. Procedures for Transfer from Criminal
Proceedings to Juvenile Proceedings
595. Mandatory Status Conference.
596. Motion Requesting Transfer from Criminal Proceedings to Juvenile Proceedings.
597. Procedures Following the Filing of a Motion Requesting Transfer from Criminal Proceedings to Juvenile Proceedings.
598. Place of Detention During Procedures for Transfer from Criminal Proceedings to Juvenile Proceedings Pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 6322.
The provisions of this Part I adopted July 31, 2012, effective November 1, 2012, 42 Pa.B. 5333.
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