In the American criminal justice system, the criminal defendant is presumed innocent until found guilty. There are three ways to plead. The first choice is to plead “Not Guilty,” which tells the court that the criminal suspect denies the charges. The second choice is to plead “Guilty,” which tells the court that the criminal suspect admits the charges. The final choice is to plead “Nolo Contendere,” or “No Contest.” The “Not Guilty” plea may be entered regardless of whether a person is truly innocent or guilty of the charges. Having actually committed the crime, it is still possible and it often happens that the suspect is still found not guilty. This occurs because the prosecuting attorney carries the burden of proof at trial. Unless the prosecuting attorney can prove Beyond a Reasonable Doubt every element of the crime charged, then the judge or jury are required to find the suspect not guilty. How a suspect will eventually plead is up to him or her, not the attorney or the judge. When a suspect pleads guilty, he or she forfeits his or her right to trial by a jury or judge. The suspect would no longer have the opportunity to face witnesses and question them. The suspect would no longer have the right to remain silent. In essence, when pleading guilty, the suspect must admit that he or she committed the criminal offense charged. When pleading no contest, the judge will find the suspect guilty without the suspect’s admission that he or she was in fact guilty. It carries with it the same effect as a guilty plea, and simply tells the court that you are not willing to go to a trial and would rather be found guilty without having to admit it. When pleading guilty or no contest, the judge engages in a colloquy with the client, which is a brief discussion whereby the judge asks the suspect if he or she is entering the plea voluntarily, with full knowledge that the suspect understands the consequences of the plea entrance. Negotiating a plea is the bargaining between the prosecuting attorney and the criminal defense attorney for a plea that is the middle ground or a compromise for both attorneys. Whatever the negotiations produce, a judge is not required to accept the negotiated plea agreement. Also, the client must give his or her permission, as well as his or her consent to the plea agreement. It is not the choice of the criminal defense attorney or the prosecuting attorney.
The information on this page does not represent legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some of the provisions contained herein may be out of date. It is always wise to seek counsel from an experienced Ft Lauderdale Criminal Lawyer like Kenneth Hassett.