An arraignment is the first time a defendant must step foot inside the courtroom in the criminal justice process. At this hearing, the court explains the charges, the potential penalties, your right to counsel, and other matters. In addition, the defendant will be asked to enter a plea of either “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.”
Many people believe they should plead guilty just because they were arrested for the crime. However, entering a guilty plea is almost always a huge mistake.
The following are the reasons why you shouldn’t plead guilty at arraignment:
- You will have a criminal record – If you plead guilty, you will automatically have a record of conviction for that charge. Having a permanent criminal record can damage your professional reputation and personal life, making it hard to get hired for a job, get accepted into college, find housing, and take advantage of other opportunities life has to offer.
- You will go to jail or prison – If you plead guilty, sentencing can occur right away without giving you time to get your affairs in order. You could be sentenced to years behind bars.
- You lose the chance to obtain a plea bargain – If you plead guilty, you lose the opportunity to obtain a plea bargain that would offer more-favorable terms by getting convicted under a less serious offense or obtain a reduced sentence, rather than the maximum penalties.
When a defendant pleads not guilty, he/she is given time to develop a strong defense strategy to get the best results possible. Your lawyer has a chance to review your case, determine your available legal options, and help you either get your case dismissed or your charges reduced.
If you have been arrested for a crime in Birmingham, AL, contact Tidwell Law Group, LLC and schedule a free consultation today.