In criminal law, the term plea refers to a defendant’s answer to legal charges or a legal declaration. A defendant can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest to charges that have been brought against him or her by the state or by the United States.
In further detail, the three types of pleas that a defendant may enter include:
Notedly, if a defendant fails to enter a plea or fails to appear in court, a guilty plea will automatically be entered.
Plea bargaining is the process of making an agreement between the prosecution and the defense in order to settle the case.
Commonly, the defendant will agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge(s). This usually means less punishment, and any plea bargains are subject to the court’s approval.
There are several steps involved in entering a guilty or no contest plea. In order for the court to accept either a guilty or no contest plea, the defendant must be placed under oath and he or she must understand the following:
The court will also ensure that the defendant’s plea was voluntary, and was not made under duress or coercion, nor did it result from any type of threat.
Finally, the court must determine that there is a factual basis for the defendant to plea in such a manner. To do so, the court will investigate the evidence, and if there is reasonable cause that the defendant committed the crime, the plea will be accepted.
In some circumstances, it may be possible to withdraw a guilty plea or no contest plea. Usually, a defendant can withdraw a guilty plea that has not yet been accepted by the judge.
A defendant may also be able to withdraw his or her guilty plea if sentencing has not yet occurred, and if the judge rejects the plea bargain to which the defendant has pleaded.
For instance, if a defendant pleads guilty to burglary in exchange for a lighter sentence of two years, but the judge intends on sentencing him to four years, it may be possible to withdraw their guilty plea.
A post-sentence withdrawal of a guilty or no contest plea is unlikely. A judge will usually only allow a plea withdrawal if there is an obvious injustice.
In exchange for a better deal, a plea of guilty or no contest usually means a defendant waives their right to appeal the plea. However, if it is discovered that the plea was entered into involuntarily, or that the defendant did not understand their charges and the effects of an admission of guilt, a judge may allow an appeal.
If you have been accused of a crime, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, and help you build a case in your defense. Your attorney will also be able to represent your best interests in court, and provide guidance on your best course of action.
Last Modified: 06-22-2018 02:34 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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