The arraignment is often the first court hearing a defendant must attend following an arrest. The judge reads the charges filed against the defendant and asks him/her to make a plea. The defendant can either plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
However, people who have never experienced the criminal justice system before typically believe that they cannot plead not guilty simply because they are charged with committing a crime. The truth is, pleading not guilty means that the prosecution must prove the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” of committing the criminal offense.
Those who plead not guilty are given the opportunity to retain legal representation from a skilled criminal defense lawyer, who can investigate the arrest, collect supporting evidence, build a strong defense, and protect the rights of their client throughout the legal process. In other words, a not guilty plea provides the defendant with ample time to prepare and strategize obtaining a reduced charge or dismissal of the entire case.
By contrast, pleading guilty means losing the opportunity to see whether or not the charges can be beaten or lowered. Additionally, those that pled guilty must likely serve the maximum penalties since the judge does not possess discretion to reduce the sentence, but only choose which sentence to impose. Once the defendant pleads guilty, the conviction will be permanently entered into his/her criminal record.
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.