Dalhousie Law Journal


guilty plea, Crown, rights, revocation, common law, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, American federal court, criminal law


The entry of a guilty plea has significant constitutional ramifications. It relieves the Crown of its obligation to prove the elements of an offence beyond a reasonable doubt and constitutes a waiver by the accused of various rights including the right to put the Crown's case to the test of a trial, the right to confront Crown witnesses through cross-examination and the right to remain silent in relation to the determination of legal guilt. In light of these constitutional dimensions, the article considers an issue which has received little academic attention: the revocation of a guiltyplea. The authorassesses the existing Canadian common law revocation rule, which he finds to be incompatible with the values expressed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms owing to its narrow scope, uncertainty, and discretionary nature. He also considers the rule developed within the American federal court system as a possible alternative to the Canadian approach. The author proposes a revised revocation rule which provides for the withdrawal of a guilty plea where the accused can prove on a balance of probabilities that the guilty plea was either uninformed or involuntary, and which further allows for revocation at any time priorto sentencing unless the Crown can demonstrate that significant prejudice would result from revocation. The author counters the view that the decision to deny the revocation of a guilty plea should be subject to deference on appeal.