It is a question that I hear almost every day. I get a call from a parent who has received notice that their son has been charged with underage drinking or a client who is facing felony charges of theft and embezzlement and who has already admitted to her employer that she stole money from the business.
The question is: how can I plead not guilty if I’m guilty? Even in the case of a traffic speeding citation, a client who wants to avoid the points wants to make sure that they’re not doing something wrong by pleading not guilty to the citation.
Is it immoral or improper to plead not guilty even when you think you’re guilty or where you’ve already admitted to the police or third-party that you’re guilty? The simple answer is no. Under our legal system each individual accused of an infraction, or crime has the right to demand that the Commonwealth or police prove them guilty of that infracture or crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Under that same system, someone who is charged or accused of a crime has the right to remain silent and is not required to implicate or incriminate themselves.
In the case of a traffic violation or a nontraffic violation such as a underage drinking or retail theft, the means to force the Commonwealth to prove the case is by entering a plea of not guilty. It is accepted and recognized that a formal plea of not guilty is the means to which you require the state to prove the case and also allow the matter to proceed to court.
This can be very advantageous in circumstances where your defense attorney can negotiate a downward departure or dismissal of the charges at the court hearing. This is not possible if you plead guilty.
In a criminal case where an individual is facing either a misdemeanor or felony, there is a requirement at the preliminary arraignment or arraignment for an entry of plea of guilty or not guilty. There is nothing dishonest or inappropriate or criminal about pleading not guilty at the arraignment level regardless of whether you had admitted guilt, believe you’re guilty, or believe the state has sufficient evidence to prosecute and convict you.
Rather, the plea of not guilty at the arraignment is the excepted way for you to notify the court and the prosecutor that the prosecutor needs to present evidence to establish all the elements of the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Even in circumstances where you think it is a “lost cause”, it’s important to plead not guilty to allow your defense account counsel an opportunity to evaluate the case explore defenses, and consider please to a reduced punishment.
When a member of our legal team of I wait the case, they are looking not only to contest the allegations against our client, but also fight the punishment that the commonwealth seeks.
Even in the worst of circumstances, our legal team fights for our clients to get them justice. That starts with maintaining there in innocence, contesting the prosecutor’s case, and making sure that our client is treated just and fairly. Learn more by reaching out to speak to me and our legal team.