Arraignment is a defendant’s first appearance in criminal court. In this court hearing, a judge will ask a defendant how they choose to plead (e.g. not guilty, guilty, or no contest).
Unfortunately, many defendants are intimidated by the criminal justice system and plead guilty at arraignment as a result. However, just because you have been charged with a crime doesn’t mean you are guilty.
Defendants have the option of initially pleading not guilty, then pleading guilty or no contest once their criminal defense attorney has obtained a favorable plea bargain agreement from the prosecutor.
The following are some reasons why you should plead “not guilty” at arraignment:
- You don’t have a lawyer – At the start of your case, you may not have hired a criminal defense attorney yet, which means you haven’t received any professional legal advice on how to deal with the charges you’re facing. Pleading not guilty gives you an opportunity to find a lawyer that is best suited for your case.
- You don’t understand all your legal options – Once you hire a lawyer, he/she can review your case, determine if there are any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and figure out all available legal defenses. However, if you plead guilty, you lose the opportunity to investigate your case and determine the strength of the arguments against you.
- You can avoid serving the maximum penalties – If you plead guilty, you will be subject to the maximum criminal penalties, which include expensive fines, a lengthy jail or prison sentence, and a permanent criminal record that can haunt you for the rest of your life. By contrast, if you plead not guilty, your lawyer will have a chance to either prove your innocence or plea bargain a more favorable sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Santa Rosa, contact the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C.today at (707) 418-5352 and request a free case evaluation.