Getting arrested for an alleged crime can not only be scary, but it can also be costly, overwhelming, and confusing. When you are arrested, you will be placed in jail and will have to remain there until your bail is paid. After that, you will have to go to court for an initial hearing, and one of the things you might be asked at this hearing is how you will plea. You have three choices, and there are pros and cons to each.
If you plead not guilty, it means that you believe you are not responsible for committing the crime, or you feel there is not enough evidence to convict you of the crime. In many cases, lawyers might recommend pleading not guilty initially. If you do this, the prosecution will have to decide if they have enough evidence to convict you. If they feel they do not, there is a chance they will drop your charges.
Pleading not guilty does not automatically get you out of the charges, though. The prosecution and judge will decide what to do if you choose to plead not guilty, but there is still a good chance you will have to go to trial.
Pleading guilty is usually not recommended by criminal defense attorneys. Once you plead guilty in court, you have admitted fault and are taking responsibility for the crime. You basically cannot turn back after doing this, and the judge could actually sentence you and impose your consequences at this hearing. A trial will not be needed, because there will be nothing to prove.
The third option you have falls somewhere in between the other two options, and it is called pleading no contest. No contest is what you might want to plea if you are guilty of the crime, yet want to take the chance that the prosecution might not be able to prove it. You are basically saying that you are letting the court decide whether you are guilty or not guilty.
In addition, if the prosecution wants to settle the case without going through a trial, he or she might offer you a plea bargain. Accepting a plea bargain means you must admit guilt, but in return you will receive a lighter punishment. Before you decide whether to accept this, make sure you discuss it thoroughly with your attorney.
A criminal lawyer can help you decide how to plead and can give you legal advice about your situation. While you still have the freedom to make your own decision, it is usually best to follow the advice your lawyer gives.