Reopening a Closed Case

This page discusses two methods for reopening a closed case. Those methods are withdrawing a guilty plea; and Post Conviction Relief (“PCR”). Other methods, for example, habeas corpus, may exist. This page does not discuss those other methods.

Withdrawing a Guilty Plea

Withdrawing a guilty plea is a procedure discussed in Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey. R. 3:21-1 specifies:

A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty or non vult shall be made before sentencing, but the court may permit it to be made thereafter to correct a manifest injustice.

Situations where the court may permit withdrawal of a guilty plea include:
  • An inadequate factual basis was provided to support the crime charged;
  • Failure to understand the consequences of the plea;
  • The indictment was defective.
As suggested by the wording of R.3:21-1, withdrawing a plea after sentencing is considerably more difficult than before sentencing.

Post Conviction Relief

Applications for PCR are based upon facts not appearing on the record. One of the more frequent reasons supporting an application for PCR is ineffective assistance of counsel.

PCR applications can be made following a guilty plea. They can also be made following a conviction after trial. Ordinarily PCR applications must be made within five years of sentencing. In some circumstances, that time requirement can be overcome.

Expungement Lawyers in New Jersey™ provide additional information concerning PCRs elsewhere.


If any of the methods discussed on this page are successful, you are not necessarily “home free.” Upon successfully withdrawing a guilty plea, or obtaining PCR, the original charge or charges are reinstated. It then becomes necessary to deal with those original charges as they existed before the guilty plea or before the trial. Depending upon circumstances, those original charges might then be dismissed. But they might not! You would then need to deal with those original charges either by another guilty plea, or a trial. The end result of that new guilty plea or trial could leave you worse off than you were originally.

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