What are the Types of Pleas in a Criminal Law Case?

What are the Types of Pleas in a Criminal Law Case?

What are the Types of Pleas in a Criminal Law Case?

With regards to criminal cases in Florida, there are technically four different potential responses that a Defendant can elect to make when formally charged at an arraignment. These options include pleading not guilty, pleading guilty, pleading no contest also known as nolo contendere, or remaining mute. Now as you might expect there are a variety of reasons as to why a Defendant might choose one of these options over another. Further, while the remainder of this passage will seek to provide information about these potential plea options, the best way to make a good decision when facing a criminal charge is to consult with a criminal defense attorney.

What Does Pleading Not Guilty Really Mean?

With the rising popularity of televised high-profile criminal law trials, many people have begun to question why so many people plead not guilty when–at least, according to the experts in social media–they’re clearly guilty. While that may seem like a reasonable question when you’re reading the news or home in front of the television, it’s important to remember that in the United States every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent. Additionally, it’s worth remembering that public opinion or the outcries within social media networks are not evidence and will not find their way into the courtroom.

So what does a plea of not guilty actually mean? The entry of a plea of not guilty means that a criminal defendant is not admitting guilt to the crime charged. Moreover there are a multitude of different reasons why a defendant in a criminal case might enter a plea of not guilty. Some of the most common of these reasons are as follows:

  1. The Defendant is not guilty of the offense charged and wishes to contest it.
  2. The Defendant hasn’t reached a decision on how to proceed with the case and needs more time to consider their options.
  3. The Defendant has not yet secured an agreeable negotiated agreement with the prosecution.
  4. The Defendant wishes to participate in the discovery process and see what evidence the prosecution has against them before deciding how to proceed.
  5. The Defendant wishes to confer with their attorney.

It’s also worth noting that the initial entry of a plea of not guilty can be changed at a later date by a Criminal Defendant to a plea of guilty or a plea of no contest. Now before making any kind of plea in a criminal case you should always talk to a criminal law attorney, but the following might provide you with some insight on what happens when you plead not guilty or guilty.

What Happens When You Plead Not Guilty?

As mentioned above, a not guilty plea is a denial of all criminal allegations leveled against a defendant. Some people are concerned that the entry of a plea of not guilty is somehow dishonest if a person knows that they did some or all of the things they are accused of. But such concerns are unfounded as utilizing apples of not guilty is oftentimes a procedural necessity. Following a plea of not guilty additional court dates are set and a criminal defendant is given time to secure legal representation, examine the evidence against them, and in some cases negotiate with the prosecution. Therefore, for most people charged with crimes in Florida, it may be best to enter a not guilty plea at arraignment.

In short, a not guilty plea is the way a criminal defendant can preserve their rights until they have explored their options, consulted an attorney, learned more about the evidence against them, and made sure they fully understand the possible consequences of a conviction.

What Happens When You Plead Guilty?

In Florida the entry of a plea of guilty in a criminal case is an admission by a criminal defendant that they committed the criminal act with which they have been charged. Now as one might expect, the entry of a plea of guilty will not only begin the process of bringing the case to a close, but it will always be followed by some form of penalty. It should also be mentioned that the entry of a plea of guilty also results in the surrender of a number of rights possessed by criminal defendants. That means it’s usually a very bad idea to enter a guilty plea without first consulting a criminal law attorney. This is especially true because the process of trying to reverse or withdraw the entry of a guilty plea is difficult and never guaranteed.

Criminal law and procedure is crafted to ensure that certain Constitutional and other rights of the accused are respected, and that criminal defendants have the opportunity to fight the charges against them. Unfortunately these same rights are also abandoned by a criminal defendant upon the entry of a guilty plea. Thus to ensure that these rights are not forsaken in error Courts will often not accept a plea of guilty if a criminal defendant exhibits ambiguity or confusion regarding their decision to plea. And, when someone enters a guilty plea, the judge will typically list all of the rights the defendant is giving up and get confirmation that they understand and are entering the plea voluntarily before accepting the plea.

Those rights include:

  • The right to have a jury or judge determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty at a trial
  • The right to have an attorney represent them at a trial
  • The right to hear and confront witnesses against them
  • The right to compel witnesses to appear in court and testify on their behalf, and to present other evidence and arguments to the judge or jury
  • The right to testify on their own behalf
  • The right against self-incrimination
  • The right to require the prosecution to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt
  • Most appellate rights

Withdrawing a Guilty Plea

Generally, once you have entered a guilty plea, you don’t have the option of changing your mind. Thus it is essential that a criminal defendant is sure they wish to enter a plea of guilty or no contest to any charge brought against them. Furthermore, while it is possible for a criminal defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest, such a result is never guaranteed. Additionally, the circumstances necessary for such a request to be granted become more onerous once a defendant has been sentenced. So making sure you’ve consulted with an experienced criminal defense attorney is always essential.

Therefore, if you or a loved one have been charged with a crime and are considering pleading guilty, you should get information and guidance from an experienced Jacksonville criminal law attorney. Unlike many criminal law firms, Lufrano Legal, P.A. offers free consultations to people facing criminal charges in Florida.

What is a Nolo Contendere Plea?

When a criminal defendant enters a plea of nolo contendere, sometimes called a “no contest” plea, it means that they are not admitting guilt, but they are also not elevating to contest the charges against them. That being said, the result of a plea of no contest is the exact same as the entry of a plea of guilty for purposes of criminal prosecution. That said, entering such a plea may be more tolerable for a defendant who doesn’t believe they have violated the law, but are concerned about the risks of a potential trial. However, not all judges in Florida will accept pleas of no contest.

What Happens When You Remain Mute?

This is technically the fourth option a criminal defendant has when confronted with an arraignment. While this is rarely relevant to the majority of criminal cases there are a select few where such a plea is important. Anytime a defendant remains mute at arraignment the judge will enter a plea of not guilty on their behalf and the case will proceed as if they plead not guilty.

Talk to a Jacksonville Criminal Law Attorney

Navigating the criminal justice system is complicated, and it’s easy to make mistakes that may haunt you for years to come. If you’re facing criminal charges, your best next step is to learn more about your rights and options. You can schedule a free consultation with attorney Matthew Lufrano right now by calling 904-513-3905 or filling out the contact form on this page.

Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney if I Plan to Plead Guilty?

Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney if I Plan to Plead Guilty?

Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney if I Plan to Plead Guilty?

Many people who have been charged with crimes in Florida assume there’s no point in hiring a criminal defense lawyer if they’re planning to enter a guilty plea. That’s usually a mistake. Here are two key reasons you should seriously consider hiring a Jacksonville defense attorney even if you are planning to plead guilty to a crime.

1. You Might Not Want to Plead Guilty

Pleading guilty may seem like the best option for you right now. Maybe it is, but then again maybe it’s not. For instance, what if you don’t have all the information or you don’t understand what each piece of evidence actually means. In such situations it might seem like pleading guilty is your only option, when in fact it’s not. Additionally attorneys are trained to be able to explain our options and how the presence or absence of various pieces of evidence might impact your case. So if you or a loved one have been charged with a criminal offense, it’s always a good idea to get the advice of a criminal defense attorney. .

There May Be Weaknesses in Your Case You Don’t Know About

Now some people charged with crimes may assume they are going to be convicted and as a result they might as well save time and money by pleading guilty. But doing so could result in a defendant missing significant weaknesses that may be present in your case. After all, an experienced criminal lawyer has the training to identify weaknesses in the case and to look for any potential basis for the suppression of evidence.

If the prosecution has offered you what seems like a great plea deal, think about why. It’s possible that the deal you’re being offered is standard for your type of charge, or that the prosecutor is cutting you a break because you have no prior criminal history. But, there’s another possibility. The prosecutor may know there’s a problem with the case and be offering a good deal so you’ll plead guilty without talking to an attorney who might recognize the weaknesses and encourage you to fight the charges.

There May Be Consequences You Don’t Know About

You may also not be aware of indirect consequences of a guilty plea. Some criminal convictions can have a serious impact on other areas of your life. For instance convictions for drug charges, even misdemeanor possession of cannabis will result in a driver’s license suspension. Likewise if not a US Citizen a plea to a criminal charge could result in deportation from the US or prevent reentry into the US. But these are just some of the collateral consequences of certain criminal cases. Others can include increased insurance costs, making you vulnerable to civil forfeiture of property, making you ineligible for certain employment, or providing a basis for the denial of certain housing accommodations. That said, you don’t want to find out about this type of consequence after you’ve entered a guilty plea. So reach out to your local criminal defense attorney today.

2. You May Not Be Getting the Best Deal Possible

Another reason you might want to consult with a criminal defense attorney prior to entering a plea of guilty is to ensure that you’re actually getting a decent sentence. Said differently, most people lack the perspective needed to evaluate the quality of any proposed plea deal. Without this perspective or experience all uncounseled defendant’s can do is hope that they get a good plea deal. Unfortunately, hoping for a good plea deal is generally not an effective strategy. Thankfully experienced criminal defense attorneys can help. These attorneys have the knowledge training, and perspective to provide a genuine assessment of the quality of any proposed plea deal.

Don’t Roll the Dice with Your Future

If you plead guilty without an agreed upon deal then it will be up to the presiding judge to determine an appropriate sentence at the conclusion of a sentencing hearing. In such scenarios there are a number of factors that can impact the ultimate sentence a criminal defendant receives including who the judge happens to be, whether a defendant has a guideline score under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, whether there is any basis to depart below the guideline score, and how prepared a defendant is to argue and present mitigation at a sentencing hearing. Thankfully a local criminal defense attorney can help you address each of those factors. More importantly after considering those factors an attorney will be able to explain to you whether or not pleading guilty without a deal is even wise.

You May Not Be Aware of All of Your Options

An agreement with the prosecution doesn’t necessarily mean pleading guilty to the charges against you. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to persuade the prosecutor to:

  • Dismiss the charges pending against you.
  • Divert your case into diversion, where upon the completion of conditions the case would be dropped.
  • Dismiss some charges and allow you to plead guilty to just one count.
  • Enter into a plea agreement for a lesser charge that carries a lighter sentence and won’t look as serious on your criminal history.
  • Agree to a sentence that doesn’t include jail time or minimizes other consequences.

In some cases, entering into an agreement may not even result in a criminal conviction. For example, Florida judges have the option of withholding adjudication in certain types of criminal cases. That means that even though the defendant pleads guilty, the defendant is not convicted of the offense. In such instances a defendant is instead placed on probation.

If probation is successfully completed, no conviction is entered. Depending on the individual and the charges, withholding adjudication can make a big difference. For example, if adjudication has been withheld, you can honestly answer “no” when an employer asks whether you’ve been convicted of a crime. Similarly, you may avoid consequences like ineligibility for certain housing or licensing.

Your criminal defense attorney can explain in more detail how adjudication withheld differs from a plea agreement with a conviction–even if the terms of your probation are exactly the same.

Talk to an Experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer

The decision you’re making right now could impact the rest of your life.

The best defense against an unnecessary conviction or a bad plea deal is a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Attorney Matthew Lufrano knows how important accurate information is. That’s why he offers free consultations to people facing Florida criminal charges. Call 904-513-3905 to schedule yours now.