After a defendant is arrested for a criminal offense, he or she will be scheduled to enter a plea during arraignment. You have the choice to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you decide to plead guilty or no contest, you will be sentenced and your case will be resolved. Before pleading guilty to a criminal charge, you are encouraged to speak with a qualified defense attorney to learn more about your options and the potential penalties you may face.
When a person pleads guilty, he or she is basically admitting to the criminal charges. No contest is similar to a guilty plea, as the defendant is not admitting or denying the charges, but chooses not to fight them. After a guilty plea is entered, the judge may choose to sentence the defendant on the spot or schedule a sentencing hearing.
Why would a person plead guilty to a crime rather than attempt to fight the charges? Some people feel guilty about their crime and would rather plead guilty to quickly resolve the matter. In some cases, the evidence against the defendant might be so overwhelming that he or she decides to enter a guilty plea.
The expense of a trial may be the determining factor for some people. If the charge is a petty misdemeanor, pleading guilty may make sense; however, those who are facing a serious charge may want to consider fighting their case. The money that is saved on the trial may end up being spent on fines, probation costs, and other expenses associated with the sentence. The fact is, many cases are resolved long before the trial, which means that you could save money on your defense.
Another reason why a person would plead guilty is that he or she does not understand the charges. This could be due to lack of legal understanding or diminished capacity. Anyone who is facing a criminal charge should seek advice from a lawyer before making such a huge decision.
When a person pleads guilty to a crime, he or she cannot retract it and later plead not guilty. It is better to plead not guilty initially and either fight your charges or negotiate a plea deal to get the offense or sentence reduced.