At What Point In The Criminal Process, Do I Enter A Plea Of Guilty Or Not Guilty?
In South Carolina state criminal courts, a plea of “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “nolo contendere” is not entered into until the very end of the case. Under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, either after a jury trial or after pleading guilty. Therefore, it is only after full discovery (i.e. all of the evidence) is provided to the defendant, reviewed and investigated by his attorney, would a defendant have to make the decision of whether to plead “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “nolo contendere.”
Should I Plead Guilty Just To Avoid The Expense Of Having An Attorney Represent Me?
Absolutely not. A skilled criminal defense attorney will research the facts, investigate the case against his clients, and try to negotiate the best possible outcomes with their adversaries (prosecutors). These deals may include reduced bonds, reduced charges, reduced sentences, or outright dismissals of the charges.
Your criminal defense attorney should also examine witnesses, analyze the prosecutor’s case, assess the potential sentences (and the likelihood of a particular judge awarding such a sentence), review search and seizure procedures, question witnesses, and gather evidence. Defense counsel will also provide more personal services by giving the defendant an honest and accurate opinion as to the possible outcomes, and by helping the defendant to deal with the frustrations, humiliations, and fears resulting from being thrown into the criminal justice system. And of course, in the rare case that no plea deal can be reached, the defense lawyer will represent the defendant at trial and do everything possible to reach a “not guilty” verdict.
Will My Punishment Be Worse If I Am Found Guilty At Trial Versus If I Had Taken A Plea?
It is hard to say. Sometimes it seems that judges do penalize a criminal defendant more if they are found guilty after a trial. The general consensus for this is that the judge will not give the defendant any consideration for “acceptance of responsibility” if they are found guilty by a jury after a trial.
What Are The Alternatives To Pleading Guilty?
A defendant always has the right to plead “not guilty” all the way through the case and have their fate decided by a jury trial. In addition, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to get your case “diverted” from criminal court and into one of several “diversionary programs.” If this occurs, your attorney should then be able to get your charges dismissed and expunged.
When Should I Accept A Plea Bargain?
If your attorney has secured a favorable plea bargain on your behalf, then is the time to have an in-depth discussion with you attorney to decide if it is in your best interest to accept, taking into account all of the many considerations. You will want to make sure that you have considered the risks and benefits when making your decision. Your attorney will give his analysis and opinion on what he thinks is in your best interest, but it is ultimately the client’s call on whether to accept a plea bargain or proceed to trial.
For more information on Entering A Guilty Or Not Guilty Plea, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (843) 856-2222 today.