Pleading Guilty: Rights and Other Legal Aspects


 Many times when someone comes to my office after the arraignment, they tell me that they want to plead not guilty. I tell the person that the court probably has already entered a not guilty plea during the arraignment. Most people are very nervous during the arraignment and simply miss the court entering a not guilty plea on their behalf.

Once a not guilty plea is entered, a guilty finding can be entered in one of two ways. First, the person may bring the case to trial and a judge or jury can find the person guilty. Second, the person can plead guilty as part of a plea bargain.

When a person chooses to plead guilty, the person is giving up many constitutional rights. Some of these rights include: the right to remain silent, the right to presumed innocent, the right to confront witnesses against them, right to cross examine witnesses, right to a fair and impartial trial and right to file motions to suppress and appeal those rulings.

In every criminal case, the prosecutor, also called the Commonwealth in this state has the burden to the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. When a person pleads guilty he or she is relieving the Commonwealth of the burden to prove the case against them. Every person has a constitutional right to remain silent and say nothing and to be presumed innocent.

By pleading guilty the person is giving up his or her constitutional rights. The person is admitting to the facts that are alleged in the police report. Because the person is admitting to the facts, the Commonwealth no longer needs to provide evidence to prove the charges. A person may plead guilty for many reasons, the most common to receive a more lenient penalty. The Commonwealth likes pleas because it no longer needs to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

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For more information:

Plead guilty or go to trial? http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06086/677199-85.stm

US Supreme Court Center, Guilty Pleas: http://supreme.justia.com/constitution/amendment-14/61-guilty-pleas.html

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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