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Tampa Florida Criminal Defense Attorney: What is a plea colloquy?

Tampa criminal defense attorneys are often asked by their clients about what to expect when they enter a plea to their criminal charges. The questions asked and posed to the accused by the presiding judge are referred to as the plea colloquy. Depending on the courtroom, jurisdiction, and other unique facts of the case, the plea colloquy can vary from a couple brief questions, to in federal court, where the plea colloquy literally takes thirty minutes to an hour. In the overwhelming majority of state cases, the plea colloquy will last approximately two to three minutes.

The plea colloquy will cover a number of factors, including, but not limited to: whether one is satisfied with the advice of their Tampa criminal defense attorney, whether they’ve been advised of potential immigration issues, whether they’ve had an opportunity to review the charges against them, whether they’ve had an opportunity to review the discovery against them, et cetera. As to the immigration issues, we further discuss this issue elsewhere in our Tampa criminal defense attorney blog, regarding a Supreme Court case arising of Kentucky, Padilla vs. Kentucky.
Further, it is critical to highlight that the court will also ask about whether you’ve been advised this plea could put you in a situation where you could be affected by Florida’s civil commitment procedures regarding sexually violent predators, under Florida’s Jimmy Ryce Act. The Jimmy Ryce Act is discussed further elsewhere on our Tampa Florida criminal defense attorney blog. It is critical to point out, in the overwhelming majority of cases, this is not an issue, but those cases with some sort of sexual undertone, or are sexually related in any way, it is very important to discuss this with your defense attorney. Otherwise you could be exposed to significant civil commitment after you criminal punishment has concluded. Please find attached Chapter 394, which relates to the involuntary commitment of sex offenders in Florida.

It’s also worth noting that if an accused hesitates or appears to waiver during their plea colloquy, it may prevent many judges from accepting the plea. While we understand that folks get nervous while in a criminal court before a judge, it’s important to keep one’s wits about them during a plea colloquy. Otherwise, again, a court may not accept the plea, putting you in a more difficult or worse situation, considering the deal was worked out beforehand. Judges are hesitant to accept their pleas because of concerns relating to Motions to Withdraw Pleas and/or other appellate issues. It’s critical to discuss what questions will be posed with your Tampa criminal defense attorney prior to hearing your plea colloquy.

In felony cases in Florida, the court is now asking whether the defendant, defense attorney, and assistant state attorney are aware of any DNA evidence that could exculpate the accused. In the overwhelming majority of situations, all answer no, because otherwise the accused likely wouldn’t be taking a plea. It’s worth noting, though, that this is an issue that has arisen out of litigation regarding Brady issues throughout the country, where prosecutors have failed to turn over DNA evidence or that their attorney failed to properly investigate DNA evidence that could have exculpated them. The overwhelming majority of Hillsborough County Judges require the Defendant, defense attorney and assistant state attorney handling the case to certify this in writing.

If you or someone you know have questions concerning your Tampa criminal case and/or what to expect during your plea colloquy, contact the Tampa criminal defense attorneys of Hackworth Law, for a free case consultation. We’ve handled thousands of criminal cases in the entire Tampa Bay area, including, but not limited to Polk, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties. If you would like to contact one of our Tampa criminal defense attorneys immediately, please use the “Contact Us Now” tab in the upper right hand corner of our website. One of our Tampa criminal defense attorneys will contact you within the same day. We appreciate you taking the time to check out our Tampa criminal defense blog, and look forward to working with you. If you have further questions, or would like to investigate other issues concerning your plea, please don’t hesitate to check out our website.