You've been hit with criminal charges, and hopefully you've hired an attorney. Your attorney will look at the details of your case, explore your options, and use their knowledge of the legal system and local courts to determine what your next step is. Generally, there are three ways you can plead in court: guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
When you plead guilty, you admit to the charges you've been accused of and you waive your rights to fight for lesser charges or defend your innocence. This is very rarely recommended by criminal defense attorneys. There are only certain circumstances in which your attorney may recommend this strategy. For example, they may be able to negotiate a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea or they may have you plead guilty to avoid more serious charges issuing.
The vast majority of criminal cases result in a not guilty plea. Even if a person thinks that they are guilty of the offenses they've been charged with, their attorney may recommend a plea of not guilty for a variety of reasons. This option gives the attorney more time to analyze the available evidence and figure out if there's enough evidence to support a conviction. This paves the way for a trial in front of a jury of your peers. If your attorney believes that they can create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury members or demonstrate that there simply isn't enough evidence to convict you, this option could lead to a reduction or even a dismissal of your charges.
You can also plead “no contest.” When an individual enters a no contest plea, they are saying that while they're not guilty (i.e., “I didn't do it”), they're admitting that there is enough evidence to convict them by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This allows a person to maintain their innocence even though they will end up with a criminal conviction. This option is usually exercised when there is a victim of a crime such as a person injured during a shooting or a drunk driving case. When you enter a plea of “no contest” or “nolo contendere” in criminal court, the injured party can't use the no contest plea against you in civil court.
The Right Plea for You
It is extremely difficult for a layperson to navigate the legal system. While they may believe that they can negotiate a plea deal or advocate for their own innocence in court, this strategy often blows up in their faces. If you try to defend yourself, remember that you will be going up against a prosecutor with full working knowledge of the legal system. It's in your best interest to hire an attorney that can advise you on your plea and help you prepare for the criminal defense process.
If you've been accused of a crime, don't rely on your innocence to save you. Work with a defense attorney who will passionately advocate for your rights and fight to have your charges dismissed. Contact WTB Law at 207-571-8146 to discuss your case and plan your next step.