All those arrested are brought before a judge sooner or later. Known as an arraignment in some places, this meeting allows the defendants to be informed of their charges and to enter a preliminary plea. The word preliminary is important since pleas can and often are changed over the course of a case. Read on to find out why it is important to plead your innocence.
At the Arraignment
Those brought before the judge can still be reeling from the effects of the arrest and, after all, being held in jail is not a pleasant experience for anyone. When you add to that the fact that many of those appearing before the judge has not had time to arrange for legal representation, you can see how confusing and stressful an arraignment can be. Arraignments, though, are important and several pieces of business can be carried out during the appearance. Besides being read your charges and asking for a plea, you might also:
- Be asked about legal representation and if you can afford a lawyer.
- Be provided with bail (or not), which is an opportunity to pay a sum of money, agree to the bail conditions, and be released pending further court actions.
Why Plead Not Guilty?
Take a look at just a few reasons why pleading not guilty is just a good idea:
- It might not be a great idea to plead guilty before you have a full understanding of what you are accused of doing, the evidence against you, and the potential consequences if convicted.
- A guilty plea at an early date can make you appear guilty, even if you are not.
- A not-guilty plea that later turns into a guilty plea is a common way of doing things. Almost all criminal cases are now resolved using a plea bargain. That means you are presented with an opportunity to skip the trial and appear before the judge to plead guilty. Be sure you don't agree to a plea deal without the support and advice of a criminal defense lawyer. Some plea deals are good and some are not. Plea deals may offer defendants a deal that includes pleading to a lesser charge or to a lesser sentence. There is always a chance that a plea deal will be beneficial to you and because of that, a not guilty plea might make it more likely that you will be offered a deal in the first place. Deals may not be offered to those who plead guilty at the arraignment, however.
You might want to consider a not-guilty plea a way of delaying things until you have a chance to speak to a lawyer. Don't try to handle a criminal case without one — your future depends on their expertise and advice.