Facing criminal charges is one of the most daunting experiences of your life. If you have been arrested for a potentially criminal act, you may not know the options that are available to you or what to expect during the process. A criminal defense attorney is often a critical component to help you defend the charges and resolve the matter as favorably as possible. It is your legal right to enter a plea to any criminal charge, but you should do so with as much information and understanding as possible.
What Plea Should I Make?
Typically during the first appearance or hearing, the judge will provide you with the exact charges and will ask how you plead. It is helpful to understand the plea options you have and what they may mean to your case. Generally, you have three plea options:
- Not Guilty
- No Contest
A guilty plea means that you admit to a crime and will face sentencing. You should not enter a plea of guilty unless you first discuss the matter with a qualified criminal attorney. A not guilty plea is the most common plea for defendants. A plea of not guilty will move the case towards a trial. A no contest plea is also called nolo contendere. It means that you are not contesting the charges but are also not pleading guilty and you waive your right to a trial.
How a Plea Makes a Difference to a Criminal Case
The plea that you make has a profound impact on the resolution of your criminal case. If you plead guilty, you will certainly speed up the legal process, but it likely will not help you much as far as sentencing goes. A guilty plea will move the case to the sentencing phase. During sentencing you or your attorney have the ability to provide mitigating information that could reduce your sentence. However, keep in mind that most crimes have minimum sentencing guidelines, so you will most often fall within those limits. A not-guilty plea gives you a chance to put on a defense to the crime.
Pleading not-guilty allows you and your attorney time to gather and review critical evidence in your case. In some instances, the state might not have sufficient evidence to win the case. Other times, evidence could have been obtained illegally and cannot be used against you. Therefore, it is almost always in your best interest to enter a plea of not-guilty. It is important to know that many criminal cases end with a plea deal or bargain. A plea bargain is a deal made between you (or your attorney on your behalf) and the prosecutor. Usually, you would agree to plead guilty to lesser charges and accept the lower penalties. If you accept a plea deal, the case is over and a judge will sentence you accordingly.
Criminal charges can be complicated and if you are convicted or plead guilty, you will face serious penalties. If you have been charged with a crime, we can help. Please contact us today to get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.
The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.
How Courts Work (americanbar.org)
no contest | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)
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