If you have been accused of a crime in Columbus, you are required to provide an official response to the charges leveled against you – this response is referred to as a plea. After your arrest, and at your arraignment, you will be asked to enter a formal plea before the court. The types of pleas you may offer in response to the charge(s) against you are: guilty, not guilty, and under certain circumstances, no contest.
As the defendant, you have the ultimate responsibility for choosing which plea to enter. However, it is prudent to obtain the advice and counsel of an experienced Columbus criminal defense attorney before submitting your plea, or accepting a plea agreement. The plea you make in response to your charges carries with it significant implications that can potentially affect the rest of your life. Therefore, it is important for you to understand the consequences of the various types of pleas before making this decision.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, our experienced team of Columbus criminal defense lawyers can help you understand all of your options and the potential consequences of those options before you enter your plea. If you’re facing a criminal charge, call attorney Ben Luftman today at (614) 500-3836.
When You Should Consider a Guilty Plea
If you enter a guilty plea to a criminal charge posed against you, you are providing the court with an admission of guilt to the offense. Such a plea can have significant implications for your life which may include facing the maximum criminal penalties imposed by Ohio law for your charge.
Once you plead guilty, you can expect the next step in the process to be the sentencing phase. Once your sentence has been imposed by the court, it is not possible to take back your guilty plea. However, you may be able to withdraw your guilty plea before the presiding judge has accepted it.
Depending on the facts surrounding your case and the nature of your offense, you may benefit from having your Ohio criminal defense attorney negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution on your behalf. This will involve you pleading guilty in exchange for receiving either a lesser charge or a less severe sentence. Of course, you’ll want to have the counsel of a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer prior to submitting a plea of guilt or agreeing to a plea bargain.
When You Should Consider a Not Guilty Plea
Offering a not guilty plea to the charge(s) leveled against you represents your claim to the court that you did not commit the criminal act of which you are accused. A plea of not guilty is your formal rejection and denial of the charges placed against you. Once you have filed a plea of not guilty, the government becomes responsible for proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you did, in fact, commit the crime for which you are charged.
Submitting a not guilty plea sets the process in motion for trial proceedings and gives your criminal defense attorney the opportunity to carefully examine the evidence in the case and prepare your defense. You always have the option to accept a plea agreement (if it has been negotiated) at any time before a final judgment has been entered in your case.
What You Should Know About a No Contest Plea
By offering a plea of no contest, you are not making an admission of guilt. However, you are affirming the validity of the facts provided in the charging document. If your case involves a misdemeanor charge, a plea of no contest puts the responsibility on the prosecutor to describe to the court the circumstances of your alleged offense. A felony case, however, has no such requirement. Not every criminal case allows for a no contest plea – and these pleas are often made as a result of a negotiated plea agreement between the defense and prosecution.
Pleading no contest offers a small amount of potential benefit to you as the defendant as opposed to pleading guilty. However, for all practical purposes, the long-term consequences you may face in terms of your sentence will likely not change.
If you plea no contest, your plea may not be used against you as evidence in a future criminal or civil case. In addition, submitting this plea may allow you to appeal certain court decisions that you would not be permitted to appeal if you pled guilty.
Failing to Enter a Plea
If, as the defendant, you do not appear in court or you refuse to enter a plea, the court is required to enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf.
Withdrawing Your Plea of Guilty or No Contest
The circumstances must be right in order for you to successfully withdraw a plea. As a defendant, you may withdraw your plea of guilty or no contest any time before the court has accepted your plea.
If the court has accepted your plea but not yet imposed sentencing, you may withdraw your plea if one of the below conditions are fulfilled:
- The defendant can demonstrate a justifiable reason for the plea withdrawal
- The plea agreement is rejected by the court
Your plea of guilty or no contest may not be withdrawn after the court imposes its sentence.
The Court’s Consent to Your Plea of Guilty or No Contest
The court must verify certain criteria as provided in the law in order to lawfully accept your plea of guilty or no contest. As the defendant, you must first of all be placed under oath in order to determine that you fully understand the following:
- The nature of the charges against you to which you are filing your plea
- Your constitutional rights, which includes the right to legal representation
- The consequences you are facing by submitting a guilty or no contest plea, including possible jail/prison time, probation, and/or fines
- The relinquishing of your right to trial, right to cross-examine your accusers, and right against self-incrimination
The court must also determine the following before entering a judgment on your plea:
- Your plea was made voluntarily and without coercion
- A factual basis exists for your plea (which may be determined by the court’s own investigation and examination of the evidence)
Contact a Skilled Columbus Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re facing a criminal charge, it is important to obtain the adept and experienced legal counsel of a Columbus criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we will work hard to protect your rights, explain your options and the types of pleas available, and move forward to negotiate vigorously with the prosecution to obtain the best outcome possible for you.