After you have been arrested, it is important to understand what comes next. The rules of criminal procedure establish the process by which your case moves through the justice system. Understanding the rules of criminal procedure can thus arm you with the information you need to make smart choices at every step after your arrest.
One of the first decisions you are going to need to make, and one of the most important, is how you want to plead. For most criminal cases, you have two primary choices: pleading guilty or not pleading guilty.
New Orleans criminal defense law firm should always be consulted before you enter a plea to help you decide on how best to minimize the penalties you face. Pleading guilty has both advantages and disadvantages, as we explain in our video Criminal 102, and your attorney can evaluate your case, and advise you on whether a plea deal is a good one in your case or whether you should take a chance at trial.
Plea Bargaining or Pleading Not Guilty
After your arrest, you are arraigned and come before the judge. It is at this time that you must enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, the case will move forward to a trial by judge or a trial by jury. You could potentially prevail at trial if the prosecutor is unable to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Pleading not guilty, therefore, could potentially allow you to keep a clean criminal record and avoid any type of penalty or consequence of the alleged wrongdoing.
Of course, if you plead not guilty, you take a big risk. As Criminal 102 describes, going to trial can be a gamble regardless of whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor because you never know how the decision is going to come down.
While a top-notch New Orleans criminal defense law firm can put together a solid defense and give you the best chance under the circumstances of winning your case, the uncertainty of a trial and the potential for a lengthy jail sentence makes a trial a high-stakes proposition since being found guilty means a judge sentences you (and sometimes mandatory minimum sentences apply). Some defendants in criminal cases are also reluctant to go to trial because, as Criminal 102 explains, a trial by jury is very rare in misdemeanor cases and you are likely to go before a judge.
Many defendants determine that the risk of a trial is not worth the potential for an adverse outcome and instead enter into a plea deal or plead out the case. A plea deal means that a New Orleans criminal defense lawyer will negotiate with the prosecutor, the city or state attorney or the district attorney to try to reduce the charges or the penalties in exchange for admitting guilt.
Finally, as Criminal 102 explains, it may be possible for you to exercise a third option: diversion. By entering into a diversion program, you go on probation instead of going to trial.
If you complete the requirements, you will have no permanent record and avoid the worst of the potential penalties you could face. Watch Criminal 102 to learn more about diversion and about how a New Orleans criminal defense lawyer at Bloom Legal can help you to choose how to plead in your case.