When you have been arrested for the suspicion of having committed a criminal offense, you will be given a court date on which you must appear before a Judge. This first court appearance is called the Arraignment. The arraignment is when the court will read you your rights, and the charges against you. The prosecutor will also give you an offer. You will then be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
Many people are overwhelmed by the whole process and want it to be over as soon as possible. Therefore, they take the offer the prosecutor gives them that first day in court and finish their case. Although, it is a nerve wrecking experience, it is a bad idea to take the first plea that is offered without knowing your rights. There may be defenses available to you, and some weaknesses in your case that could leave a lesser charge or even a dismissal.
Without an attorney, you would not be aware of what the right offer is and what you should accept before entering a guilty plea. You may even be entering a premature plea when you could have gotten a better deal with some negotiation and bargaining.
Let’s consider Dan. He is charged with a misdemeanor drunk and disorderly conduct. He appears before the Judge and the prosecutor offers him no jail time if he pleads guilty to a drunk and disorderly conduct. He was stopped by officers outside a bar talking to his friend. He had no drink in his hand, and he was not starting a fight or causing any violence. However, Dan is not aware that the government must prove certain elements that may not be met in Dan’s specific fact pattern. Dan has a strong chance of getting his case dismissed or reduced, but not if he accepts the first offer at his arraignment.
If Dan consults with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney he will be able to understand his rights and the weaknesses in his case. At the arraignment, the prosecutor will get a set standard offer. He or she will not be able to negotiate or to reduce that offer. That is a matter for the next hearing, the Pre-trial. A person must plead not guilty for the case to be set for Pre-trial. At that stage is when the attorney will be able to discuss the case with the Prosecutor and push for a dismissal or a better offer.
If you are facing criminal charges, do not enter a plea without consulting a professional. Your plea can have many consequences in the future and must be entered with a full understanding of your rights. Speak to someone who can give you a better understanding of what you are entitled to and what your potential outcomes can be!