You have been arrested for a crime. The police tell you that they are sure you did it. You arrive in court, and the judge asks you how you plead.
This is a key moment that could have a huge impact on your future. It is imperative to remember that you do not have to plead guilty.
In fact, you have three options: guilty, not guilty, and no contest (a plea that does not admit guilt but accepts conviction).
Deciding which plea is best in your specific situation requires careful consideration—and the advice of an experienced defense attorney.
What Happens When You Plead Guilty?
If you decide to plead guilty, you immediately give up your right to a criminal trial. It should be obvious that this is not a step to be taken lightly. Without a trial, you have no opportunity for the case to be considered by a jury of your peers or for your attorney to develop arguments against your guilt.
Your guilty plea can only be changed in Florida under two circumstances. If you can show what is known as “good cause” before sentencing, you may be able to change your plea. After sentencing, the only way to make a plea change is if you can demonstrate that a manifest injustice has been done to you. Both of these standards are difficult to meet, so you cannot plead guilty now in the hope that you can change your plea later.
We cannot stress this strongly enough: You must not plead guilty without speaking with an attorney.
Why Would You Plead Guilty?
Sometimes, your lawyer and the prosecutor can reach a plea deal. This may mean, for example, that you will plead guilty to lesser charges to avoid having to go to trial and risk conviction on more serious charges. Again, this is not a decision to be made casually. Your defense attorney will work to secure the best possible plea deal before advising you to consider pleading guilty to lesser charges. In some circumstances, pleading guilty may be the route to serving less time in jail or prison.
Contact an Okaloosa County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.