An arraignment is a court proceeding at which a criminal defendant is formally
advised of their constitutional rights (e.g. right to trial, right to
counsel, right against self-incrimination, etc.) and the charges against
them, and is then asked to enter a plea to the charges. This court hearing
typically occurs within a reasonable time following arrest.
The defendant can plead “not guilty,” “guilty,”
or “no contest.” So how should you plead?
Do Not Plead Guilty
A not guilty plea simply means that the criminal defendant is going to
make the state prove the case against them. It is often wise that defendants
plead not guilty at arraignment—even if they think they are guilty.
This requires the prosecutor to gather evidence against the defendant
and provides the defense ample time to review the evidence, investigate
the case, and determine whether the evidence proves that the defendant
committed the criminal offense.
It is almost always a mistake to simply enter a guilty plea to the charges
at arraignment. But how come?
The disadvantages to plead guilty include the following:
- You will have a permanent criminal record of conviction for that charge.
- The judge or justice only has discretion to decide what sentence to impose.
- You will never have the opportunity to see whether there was a viable defense
to your charges or whether the District Attorney would have exercised
prosecutorial discretion in your favor.
At the very least, an individual who is considering entering a guilty plea
at arraignment should first enter a not guilty plea and discuss the matter
with courtroom attorney for the day.
If a defendant pleads no contest, they acknowledge that the prosecution
has enough evidence to prove they committed a crime but does not admit
guilt. In other words, the defendant essentially admits committing the
crime. When a defendant enters this plea at arraignment, the court proceeds
the same way it would proceed if the individual pleaded guilty.
For more information on what to do at your arraignment in Ventura County,
request a free consultation with our Ventura criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of Jarrod
M. Wilfert today.