An arraignment is often the first court hearing of a criminal case. It is where the court will read the charges against you, the range of potential penalties, the presumption of innocence, the state’s burden of proof, and the right to counsel and a jury trial.
At some point, the judge will ask the defendant how he/she decide to plead. Defendants can enter an initial plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
When it comes to choosing what to plead, it is often wise to plead not guilty. While a defendant can change a not-guilty plea at some point in the proceedings, it is not the case for a guilty or no-contest plea.
Once you enter a guilty plea to a charge, you will automatically have a record of conviction for that charge. The judge only has the discretion to determine what the sentence will be, but not the power to reduce the charges. Additionally, pleading guilty means never having the opportunity to see whether there whether there was a possible defense to your charges or a weakness in the prosecution’s case against you.
By contrast, a not-guilty plea indicates that the defendant is challenging the charges against him/her. Since the burden of proof is on the state, you will often be able to raise viable defenses that can either lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges.
If you have been arrested for a criminal offense in Florida, your best decision is to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you avoid the potential pitfalls of the criminal justice system. Your lawyer can evaluate your case and determine the proper defenses to either get your entire case dismissed or your charges substantially reduced.
For more information, contact The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. and request a free consultation with our Seminole County criminal defense attorney today.