THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA
STEPHEN R. McCULLOUGH JUSTICE
Brown appeals from the refusal of the circuit court to set
aside her guilty plea. For the reasons noted below, we
conclude that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion
in denying Brown's motion. Thus, for the reasons
explained below, the judgment of the Court of Appeals will be
Commonwealth proffered the following evidence at Brown's
guilty plea. On May 12, 2016, Brown entered a Wal-Mart store
after having been previously banned from the store. A loss
prevention officer observed her leaving the store without
paying for items she had placed in her bags. When the loss
prevention officer confronted Brown, she asked if he was
going to press charges. She then left the items behind, ran
to a vehicle, and fled.
with trespass and the felony of petit larceny, third offense,
Brown negotiated a plea agreement. On January 30, 2017,
pursuant to that agreement, she entered a plea of guilty to
trespass and the lesser included misdemeanor offense of petit
larceny, second offense. From the bench, the court pronounced
a sentence in conformity with the plea agreement: twelve
months in jail, with eleven months suspended for the petit
larceny charge and twelve months, all suspended, for the
February 1, 2017, before the circuit court entered the final
sentencing order, Brown filed a motion to withdraw her guilty
plea to the petit larceny conviction. Counsel explained at a
hearing on the motion that Brown regretted pleading guilty,
and stated that "she thinks she has some evidence
now" that could be "present[ed] to the court to
assist in her defense." Brown testified that she
"just took the plea to try to avoid the felony" but
she did not know that pleading guilty "would make [her]
lose [her] house and [her] job." Brown worked in the
school system and she learned she might lose her job as a
consequence of her conviction. She also stated that she had
"evidence to fight against this case" and that she
was not guilty. Specifically, she stated that she had
"evidence to prove that the merchandise was left in the
store and [she] had [her] money returned back to [her], and
all of that." The circuit court denied the motion and
entered the final sentencing order. A three-judge panel of
the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's
judgment in an unpublished opinion. The defendant appeals.
"manifest injustice" standard governs a motion to
withdraw a guilty plea made after sentence was pronounced but
before the order was entered.
Virginia law, motions to withdraw a guilty plea are governed
by two separate standards. The timing of the motion to
withdraw determines which standard a court will apply to
review the motion. A long line of cases, beginning with
Parris v. Commonwealth, 189 Va. 321 (1949), have
refined the standard that governs pre-sentencing
motions to withdraw a guilty plea. Under the more forgiving
pre-sentencing standard, a motion to withdraw should be
granted if the guilty plea was "made involuntarily"
or "entered inadvisedly, if any reasonable ground is
offered for going to the jury." Id. at 325.
Whether the guilty plea was voluntary and counseled are thus
central considerations. "[A] defendant who moves to
withdraw a guilty plea before sentencing need only
show that  his motion was made in good faith and 
premised upon a reasonable basis." Velazquez v.
Commonwealth, 292 Va. 603, 616 (2016). A reasonable
basis must include a proffer of evidence showing a reasonable
basis for contesting guilt." Cobbins v.
Commonwealth, 53 Va.App. 28, 34 (2008) (citing
Justus v. Commonwealth, 274 Va. 143, 155-56 (2007)).
"The first requirement protects the integrity of the
judicial process by precluding defendants from using a guilty
plea as a subterfuge to manipulate the court. The second
requirement defeats motions to withdraw which would result in
an essentially futile trial." Id.
example, where "it appears from the surrounding
circumstances that the plea of guilty was submitted in good
faith under an honest mistake of material fact or facts, or
if it was induced by fraud, coercion or undue influence and
would not otherwise have been made" a trial court should
permit it to be withdrawn. Parris, 189 Va. at
324-25. In addition, courts should consider what prejudice
withdrawing the plea might cause to the Commonwealth.
Pritchett v. Commonwealth, 61 Va.App. 777, 787
(2013). Trial courts possess "sound discretion" to
determine whether to allow a defendant to withdraw a
pre-sentencing guilty plea, and the exercise of that
discretion will of course turn on "the facts and
circumstances of each case." Parris, 189 Va. at
motion to withdraw a guilty plea made after
sentencing is governed by the "manifest
injustice" standard. The manifest injustice standard
comes from Code § 19.2-296. That statute provides as
[a] motion to withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere
may be made only before sentence is imposed or imposition of
a sentence is suspended; but to correct manifest injustice,
the court within twenty-one days after entry of a final order
may set aside the judgment of conviction and permit the
defendant to withdraw his plea.
injustice is a "more severe standard" and it
applies post-sentencing "to avoid motions for withdrawal
based on disappointment in the terms of the sentence . . .
." Lilly v. Commonwealth, 218 Va. 960, 965
(1978) (internal citation omitted). A manifest injustice
"amounts to an obvious miscarriage of justice" or
"[a] direct, obvious, and observable error in a ...