In any criminal case, whether the charges are deadly serious or only minor offenses, a defendant will have the opportunity to enter a plea. Your plea will determine the course your case takes until it is eventually resolved. While many defendants assume the best decision is to plead not guilty, a guilty plea can sometimes be the better choice. An attorney can help you reach a plea decision.
You are not legally required to hire an attorney, but proceeding without one is usually unwise. In many cases, the court will offer to appoint a defense attorney free of charge. You should take advantage of this opportunity and consult with a lawyer about your case. An attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of entering a guilty plea, so you make the right decision.
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, you should speak with an attorney as soon as you can. Our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers are prepared to conduct a free case review and help you decide how to plea. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to get help now.
When and Where to Enter a Guilty Plea in New Jersey
Criminal defendants are given their first opportunity to enter a plea at the arraignment. The arraignment is a formal hearing in which the defendant is officially notified of the charges against them and asked to enter a plea. If you enter a plea of not guilty, a trial and numerous proceedings leading up to it will be scheduled. Your trial rights will be waived if you plead guilty, and you will proceed directly to the sentencing phase. If you do not have an attorney by the time you reach your arraignment, our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can step in and advise you on how to proceed.
Not every guilty plea is entered right away. At the arraignment, we can indicate to the court that you are interested in negotiating a plea deal or plea bargain with the prosecutor. If the prosecutor is willing to negotiate, we can get your charges reduced before you plead guilty. Plea negotiations often take place before a trial is scheduled. However, you could enter a plea of not guilty, schedule a trial, and then change your mind and work out a plea deal with prosecutors. Plea deals have been known to take place during trials or even during jury deliberations. As long as the prosecutor keeps the offer of a plea deal on the table, you can choose to accept.
Why an Attorney is Necessary When Pleading Guilty in New Jersey
You are technically not required to retain an attorney, and you are free to proceed pro se without any legal representation. People often refuse to hire a lawyer because they assume the cost will be too great. However, hiring an attorney may be the smartest purchase you can make. Our Ocean City criminal defense attorneys are ready to help and advise you on how to plead.
A lawyer can advise you on the pros and cons of a guilty plea. A guilty plea is not to be entered lightly or on a whim. Once it is officially entered, it is very difficult to take it back and change it. There are also numerous legal consequences to a guilty plea. You will waive your rights to a trial by a jury of your peers and will not have an opportunity to challenge the evidence against you. However, in cases where an acquittal is unlikely, defendants might feel that entering a guilty plea is the fastest way to end an emotionally draining legal battle.
If you think pleading guilty is a good choice for your situation, an attorney can help you negotiate a plea deal, so you plead guilty to lesser charges. Prosecutors are often open to plea agreements because they have such large caseloads, and it is almost impossible to bring them all to trials. Our South Jersey criminal defense attorneys have experience in plea negotiations and can work with prosecutors to reduce your charges before you plead guilty.
Working out a plea negotiation can be tough. The average defendant is likely unequipped to negotiate with prosecutors on their own effectively. A lawyer can help you determine if pleading guilty is right for your case and work to reduce the charges to which you plead guilty.
How Do I Know if Pleading Guilty in New Jersey is the Right Choice?
It is understandable to have reservations about entering a guilty plea. Formal arraignments and plea negotiations can come at you fast, and you might feel unprepared to make a decision. With the help of our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys, you can initially enter a plea of not guilty, schedule a trial, and change your plea to guilty later if you feel that is the best choice.
Before a trial ever begins, defendants and their legal counsel have the right to see all the evidence a prosecutor has. Knowing this information can help you decide if pleading guilty is a good decision. If the evidence is strong and an acquittal unlikely, a guilty plea or a plea deal might be wise. However, if the evidence is weak, we might have a stronger chance at securing an acquittal at a trial.
If you turn down a plea agreement and take your chances at a trial, you risk being found guilty of your original charges, not the reduced charges from the plea deal. Not only that, but entering a guilty plea sooner, like at your arraignment, may earn you points with the judge. Judges often view guilty pleas and admissions of guilt as signs of remorse. If a judge has any discretion with your final sentence, they may decide to be lenient considering your guilty plea.
Call Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you are charged with any crime, our Wildwood criminal defense attorneys can advise you on how to proceed and enter your plea. The attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can meet you for a free case review. Contact our team at (609) 616-4956.