When you’re accused of a crime, whether you committed it or not, the anticipation of facing a judge can be frightening. In some cases, not knowing what is going to happen can be worse than facing the consequences. However, your arraignment will not only set your release options (bail, travel restrictions, etc.), it also allows you the opportunity to establish how the rest of the proceedings will go when you give your plea of guilty or not guilty.
Although this may seem like an easy question—if you committed the crime you’re guilty, if you didn’t you’re not—your answer will affect the rest of your case, if not your life. This is why any good lawyer will tell you to always plead “not guilty” no matter what.
But what if you are guilty? Shouldn’t you just admit it? Wouldn’t it be lying to claim innocence when you are, in fact, guilty?
Options Provided by Pleading Not Guilty vs. Guilty
A plea of not guilty is not necessarily a sworn declaration that you’re innocent. Rather, it’s a statement which declares that you wish the state to provide proof of your guilt, since you have the fundamental right of being “presumed innocent, until proven guilty.” It also buys you time to gather a defense. Otherwise, if you admit your guilt, you’ll automatically be convicted no matter the circumstances.
In addition, a guilty plea limits your rights and narrows your options for sentencing, appeal, and punishment in the following ways:
- The judge is only left with the discretion to decide what sentence to impose for the exact charges set.
- The judge will not have the power to change the charge to something less serious.
- Filing an appeal or a deferred disposition that could ultimately result in a dismissal cannot be pursued.
- Your constitutional rights are waived and, in most cases, you can be sentenced immediately.
However, pleading not guilty allows you and your lawyer more time to prepare a defense and accomplishes the following:
- Preserves your constitutional rights for trial.
- Forces the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Opens the door for a plea deal from the prosecution if they feel they cannot prove your guilt.
- Gives the judge the ability to lower the charge.
- Allows you the right to appeal as you have not publicly denounced your innocence.
This is why your lawyer should always advise you to never willingly plead guilty during an arraignment, unless you have discussed it thoroughly with him first.
The Lawyer You Need, the Advice You Deserve
When battling a criminal charge, look no further than Mordock. Contact us today and see how our advice and guidance can help you when battling a criminal charge. The consultation is free, but the outcome of our help can be liberating. Call now at 504-304-2335!
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