“The defendant will enter a plea….” is often part of a sentence found in a report about an upcoming criminal court case. If you are charged with a crime you are obliged to respond to those charges at the time of your arraignment. An arraignment is the first time a defendant will appear in court after his arrest.
In most cases the options are pretty cut and dried. The defendant will either plead guilty, innocent or no contest. But the process doesn’t end there, now the judge must accept the plea and in order to do so he will have to determine its validity.
If the defendant enters a plea of guilty for instance, the judge must be sure that the defendant is mentally competent, meaning that he is aware of what he is doing and the possible consequences of his decision. In order to do that the judge will talk directly to the defendant. He will explain the charges and the magnitude of the penalties that may be imposed and he will advise the defendant of his right to legal counsel and that he may request a jury trial.
The next step is for the judge to determine that the defendant is acting of his own free will. Any evidence of coercion will make the plea inadmissible.
A “plea agreement” can accompany a plea of guilty. It is often used when there are several charges pending. In this scenario, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to one charge in exchange for a dismissal of the others. The judge must agree to the arrangement.
A defendant who has entered an initial plea of guilty can change his mind and withdraw the plea anytime during the court procedures, no questions asked. However, once the judge has accepted the plea the defendant will have to come up with a valid reason to withdraw it.
The average man or woman who has been accused of a crime will feel completely overwhelmed. He or she will need the advice of an accomplished criminal attorney in order to be able to understand just what they are facing. Rely on the experienced firm of Parker Lawyers to represent your best interests. Call the offices @ 303-841-9525.