I Was Arrested – What Plea Should I Make?

There is never an easy answer to this question because every case is different and has its own unique set of circumstances. Before determining the best way to plead, it’s important to understand the types of pleas that you can make. The plea is generally part of the arraignment – the initial court appearance. Depending on circumstances, you may be able to enter your plea through your attorney. There are three choices when it comes to pleas.

Plea Options

There are just three choices when it comes to pleas. You can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. There are consequences to each of the possible choices so it’s best to understand how your plea will impact your case. At your initial appearance, the judge will explain the charges against you and will ask for your plea. A guilty plea will usually result in the judge completing the case by sentencing you. Weigh your options before entering a plea of guilty because the consequences could be long-reaching.

Guilty Plea

A plea of guilty is an admission of guilt so you will be subject to the full penalties that are part of the charges. The penalties are typically based on guidelines that are in place for each specific offense. It is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney before making a plea of guilty. There are some consequences, besides the initial penalties, that you’ll want to consider. For example, the guilty plea will be part of your permanent record and, depending on the charges, it could make it difficult to get a job in the future or to obtain insurance. A plea of no contest is also called “nolo contendere”. In the legal process, a plea of no contest is very similar to a guilty plea and is only applicable to a limited number of crimes.

Not-Guilty Plea

When a plea of not-guilty is entered the case will continue to trial. This process usually begins with a pre-trial hearing, which will likely be set at your arraignment. A not guilty plea is a very standard choice and one that may be recommended by your lawyer. Once a not-guilty plea is entered the case will proceed towards trial. You will meet with your attorney to discuss the case and gather information. Your lawyer will develop your defense strategy based on the facts of the case. Choosing a skilled attorney who focuses on the type of law necessary to handle your case is essential to a good outcome. In some cases, the lawyer will work to get a plea deal.

Plea Deal

A plea deal is an agreement to plead guilty usually done in exchange for lesser charges or for a reduced sentence. A plea deal is not always possible so it shouldn’t be assumed that you’ll be offered one. If the prosecutor has a strong case and plenty of evidence, it’s less likely that he will agree to any type of deal. If, on the other hand, the evidence is weak or some evidence will not be allowed in the case, a deal may be possible. Your lawyer will understand how best to handle the situation. If you refuse to accept a plea deal your case will continue to trial. This could end in a guilty verdict, so it’s important to make an educated decision after consulting with your attorney.