Learn Your Best Legal Option with the Help of a New Orleans Criminal Lawyer
If you’ve ever watched a courtroom drama, then you are familiar with the dramatic moment in which the judge asks the defendant “How do you plea?”, to which the defendant replies “not guilty,” eliciting audible gasps from the courtroom. Real-life criminal pleas usually are not that dramatic, but they are similar. At the defendant’s arraignment, the judge will indeed ask the defendant how he pleads, but the defendant’s New Orleans criminal lawyer is usually the one who answers. How the attorney answers depends upon a number of factors, which we will outline below.
There Are Three Plea Options Available to You
In the criminal justice system in Louisiana, there are three ways a defendant can plead: guilty, not guilty, or no contest (also known as nolo contendere). A guilty plea means that the defendant admits what the prosecutor is alleging and agrees to the punishment. There is no trial after a defendant pleads guilty. A not guilty plea means that the defendant denies the prosecutor’s charges and wishes to challenge them. A not guilty plea kicks off the trial portion of the criminal process, where the defendant will have the opportunity to establish reasonable doubt in the prosecutor’s case. A no contest plea means that the defendant neither accepts nor denies the charge, but agrees to be bound by the punishment. It has the same effect as a guilty plea, except that a defendant’s plea of no contest cannot be later used against him, as a guilty plea can.
Our New Orleans Criminal Lawyer Explains What Happens When You Plead Guilty in Louisiana
You may have wondered why anyone would plead guilty if they have a chance to clear their name. The reason why most people plead guilty is because (a) the prosecutor’s evidence is overwhelming and they will not be able to defeat the charge, or (b) the prosecutor has offered a plea bargain, which allows the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Plea bargains can be an attractive option for many defendants, as they introduce a degree of certainty as to what will happen to them that they would not have if they pleaded not guilty. A not guilty plea means that the defendant could beat the charges, but it also means that, if they lose, they will bear the full force of the prosecutor’s original charge.
Due to the potentially serious personal consequences of a guilty plea, the law wants to ensure that defendants know what they are doing before they plead guilty. To that end, a court will not accept a plea of guilty in a felony case unless the judge addresses the defendant in open court and determines that he understands:
- The nature of the charge against him and its minimum and maximum penalties
- If he is not represented by an attorney, that he has a right to be represented by one
- That he has the right to plead not guilty, to be tried by a jury, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against him, and the right not to be compelled to incriminate him else’s
- That if he pleads guilty, he waives the right to a trial and there will not be a further trial
As the law demonstrates, pleading guilty is not a decision to be undertaken lightly. However, in some situations it may be the best option available.
Contact a New Orleans Criminal Lawyer Before You Plead
If you have been charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney about your options before you enter a plea. For assistance, please contact a New Orleans criminal lawyer at Bloom Legal by using our online form or calling us at 504-599-9997.
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Posted by: Zachary Klos