If you have been arrested and charged on suspicion of having violated a provision of the California Penal code, there will be a set date on which you will be scheduled to appear in Court. This first appearance is referred to as an Arraignment. At the arraignment you will be explained what charges are being brought against you, you will be advised of your rights, and the Judge will ask you to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
At this first hearing you will have the opportunity to speak to a Prosecutor and the Prosecutor will define the consequences you will face if you plead guilty at that first appearance. You will then be asked how you would like to proceed. Pleading guilty will conclude your case and you will be sentenced the consequences the Prosecutor has offered.
You also have the option to plead not guilty. If you plead not guilty, the Judge will set another court date referred to as the Pre-Trial. The Pre-Trial will be before another Judge and in another courtroom.
This is a very big decision, as it can determine whether or not a criminal charge remains on your permanent criminal record. How do you know which decision to make, and whether it is the right one. It is an incredibly stressful situation because you do not know what your chances are of winning your case if you plead not guilty, and you do not know if pleading guilty will save you unnecessary expenses and time if you are going to be convicted at the end of trial.
Another significant issue to remember is that the offer, or plea bargain made by Prosecutors at your arraignment will be taken off the table if you plead not guilty, and another will be offered at Pre-Trial. The second offer may not be as generous as the first offer, but it may also be a lot better. Therefore, the decision is a difficult one and must be made with plenty of knowledge and experience .
This knowledge and experience is best found by consulting an experienced San Diego Criminal attorney who has been in Court thousands of time and can advise you from experience whether the facts of your case would benefit from pleading guilty or not guilty.
Oftentimes the facts of the case will dictate that the case should be reduced or dismissed and do not rise to the level of a conviction. In those situations, a professional would advise that you plead not guilty and push the case to trial. In contrast, if there are facts that strongly lean towards a conviction, it may be best to plead guilty and accept the lowest possible sentence available instead of risking a higher penalty at trial.
Regardless of which way your case leans, one thing is for sure, consulting with a knowledgeable San Diego Criminal lawyer will help guide you towards the right decision!