Shortly after you've been arrested and accused of a crime, you will enter the criminal justice system to be tried for your crime. Usually, one of the first things you can do is present your plea to the charges. If you feel like you've been charged correctly, you might feel it's worth it just to enter your plea as guilty and take your punishment. However, entering a guilty plea, especially early in the legal process, may not be the best decision for you, even if you have committed some criminal activity.
Here are a few reasons why you should always speak with a criminal defense attorney before making any pleas in court.
1. A guilty plea is an admission of guilt to the charges.
If you plead guilty, you admit to doing what the charges say you have done. This might seem simple, but really, an admission of guilt to the charges levied against you could be wrong for your situation. For example, if you were accused of a violent assault but there was no injury on the other person, you lawyer could contest that a lesser charge is more fitting to the crime. However, your lawyer will not often be able to work out reduced charges if you have already plead guilty.
2. You might forgo the chance of a good plea deal.
If you plead guilty too early, you might not have the chance to see what the prosecutors bring to the table. In order to quickly and efficiently pursue justice, many prosecutors will offer reduced prison time, probation, or a similarly lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. By pleading guilty at your arraignment, you might not have the chance to see what plea deals could be offered.
3. You have no control over the outcome.
No person who is in the criminal justice system has full control over their circumstances, but at the same time, when you plead guilty, you give up all power to the judge who is sitting in court that day. You will not have the chance to get a jury trial for your crimes. The judge also has the full discretion to give you the maximum sentence under the law because you have admitted guilt. A good criminal defense lawyer can help you get to trial to show the circumstances surrounding the crime, which can help reduce the sentence even if you are found guilty. For example, if you injured a man because you felt verbally threatened, he might bring charges against you for assault. You may still be found guilty, but the circumstances would likely allow for leniency in your case.
4. You take away the responsibility of the prosecutor.
As an accused criminal, you still have rights. Your most basic right is the presumption of innocence—innocent until proven guilty. This means that everyone must assume you are innocent until it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. If there is reasonable doubt, you are still innocent under the law. When you admit guilt, you give up this presumption. Prosecutors are responsible for gathering the information to accuse you in court. With your testimony, they no longer have to provide proof, as your own statement is enough.
There are of course, some cases where a guilty plea is preferable, but these cases should only be determined by an experienced criminal defense attorney. You may not realize what rights you are giving up with an early guilty plea unless you have been fully apprised of what that plea could mean. For more information, contact a local law firm.