An essential element of any guilty plea is the factual basis requirement. This requirement states that a court may only accept a guilty plea if an underlying set of facts exists that supports the plea. In many circumstances, federal criminal defendants have challenged their guilty pleas in the courts of appeals, arguing that their conviction lacks adequate factual basis. The Note explores the complex circuit split over whether federal criminal defendants have the right to launch this type of appeal.
After summarizing the historical progression of the factual basis requirement, the Note examines the variety of legal arguments put forth by courts that have both permitted and denied appeals pursued on an inadequate factual basis theory. The Note then puts forth various legal and policy arguments regarding why defendants should retain the right to appeal their convictions based on an inadequate factual basis. The Note concludes by arguing that the Supreme Court should propose an amendment to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that specifically states that defendants may challenge the adequacy of the factual basis of their guilty pleas on appeal.