Guilty Plea Must be Voluntary in Tennessee

October 3, 2013

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee in a recent appeal of a drug case involving a defendant who plead guilty and then tried to claim it was not “voluntary” due to ineffective assistance of his counsel, held that a guilty plea is not “voluntary” if it results from ignorance, misunderstanding, coercion, inducements, or threats.  A trial court must decide if the plea is “knowing” by asking the defendant to make sure he or she fully understands the plea and its consequences.

The Court of Criminal Appeals wrote an opinion based on this issue.

The law states that there must be an affirmative showing of a voluntary and knowing guilty plea—that the defendant is aware of the significant consequences of his plea. Judge Smith stated that it was up to the trial court to determine credibility of witnesses, and that determination carries heavy weight. The defendant didn’t prove that his trial counsel’s representation was deficient and that he would not have pled guilty if not for her representation.  In addition, the transcript of the guilty plea hearing showed that the trial judge discussed the ramifications of the guilty plea with the defendant, and he was thoroughly questioned to see if he understood the plea’s effects.

The defendant knew what he was doing, understood the plea, and agreed that it was what he wanted to do.  He didn’t present enough evidence that he received ineffective assistance of counsel or that his guilty plea was involuntary. He also failed to prove he did not understand the plea’s ramifications. As a result, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee affirmed the denial of the defendant’s petition for post-conviction relief. Page v. State, Slip Copy, 2013 WL 5373150 (Tenn.Crim.App. Sept. 23, 2013).


Questions about pleas or other issues in a criminal case?

Kevin Patterson has been providing professional legal services to individuals and businesses in the greater Memphis area since 1983.  When you ask Kevin to assist you with your legal issue, he will treat your case with the dedicated service and attention it deserves. Call Kevin at 901.300.4820 or e-mail him at to discuss your legal matter. We look forward to hearing from you.


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