If you are called into court for an arraignment, it is a good idea to contact a South Florida criminal defense attorney so that you can learn about the plea options available in a Florida criminal case. There are different ways that you can plead and hiring a lawyer to inform, as well as represent you will aid your case greatly.
There are 3 different types of plea options available to the accused:
- Nolo Contendere (No Contest);
- Not Guilty; and
Plea Option 1: Nolo Contendere or No Contest
In this case, the accused accepts their punishment without an admission of guilt. The punishment is not lessened. You will receive the same punishment that you would have if you pled guilty. The reason that some South Florida criminal defense attorneys suggest this route is because it avoids an admission of guilt that could be used at a later civil proceeding.
For example, if you damage someone’s property while drunk and they want you to pay the damages and you plead no contest then you must pay for the damages and that is all. However, if later somebody else wanted to charge you with damaging their separate property during that same event, then they could not use the previous proceeding to prove that you were drunk. They will bear the burden of proving that you were intoxicated and liable for the damage.
This plea is special, however, because you cannot plead nolo contendere without the approval of either the prosecutor or the court in most cases. Additionally, its general use is for misdemeanors, not felonies. Your South Florida criminal defense attorney can explain to you if your case qualifies for this type of plea.
Plea Option 2: Not Guilty
If you choose to plead not guilty, then a trial date will be set. By choosing this option, you give your lawyer about 2-3 weeks to file several motions with the court that can work in your favor. For example, your Miami criminal defense attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence that may have been illegally obtained at the scene of the crime.
As a civilian, you most likely do not know appropriate police procedure, so even though it may seem like the prosecutor has a strong case against you, there may have been mistakes made during seizure of evidence or other aspects of your arrest.
Similarly, you may not be aware of all the media coverage concerning your situation. Your Miami criminal defense attorney can file a motion for a change of venue that will allow the proceedings to be moved to a different location where it is less likely that the jury has a predisposed notion of guilt caused by publicity surrounding the event.
By pleading not guilty you allow your Miami criminal defense attorney to unearth all of the facts surrounding the event, some of which you may be unaware and could help your case.
Plea Option 3: Guilty
You can only plead guilty if it is a voluntary act and you understand all of the repercussions surrounding that choice.
When a person pleads guilty, they give up several constitutional rights, including:
- Right to trial by jury;
- Right to confront witnesses; and
- Protection against self incrimination.
Most jurisdictions allow you to withdraw your guilty plea before the court accepts it, and also after it accepts the plea but before they determine punishment.
Plea bargains can happen when the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the charge in return for a lesser penalty.
There are 2 types of plea bargains:
- Charge Bargain, which requires testimony against another defendant; and
- Sentence Plea Bargain, which informs you of the punishment prior to trial.
A plea bargain is negotiated through your lawyer and usually takes place between the two lawyers alone, in an informal setting. Sometimes a judge will be present but many judges prefer to stay unaware of the negotiations.
Contacting a Miami Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges in South Florida, your legal team is your best defense. Contact the Miami criminal defense attorneys at Falk & Ross to discuss your case – (877) 663-5110.