Should I Plead Guilty at My First Court Date?


Hi my name is Steve Burton. I’m one of
the lead criminal defense attorneys at Intermountain Legal and I’d like to
answer the question, “Should I plead guilty when I’m charged with a crime?” A
lot of people call us and ask, “Should I plead guilty at my first court date?” or
“Should I plead guilty at my arraignment if I’m guilty?” And the answer is actually
99% of the time it is not a good idea to plead guilty right up front, before you
have a chance to negotiate. And that’s kind of counter-intuitive. Most people
think that in the criminal system if they accept responsibility and show that
they’re not trying to get out of it and that they realize that they’ve done
something wrong, that they’ll get a better deal or a better resolution or a
lesser punishment. Unfortunately most of the time it doesn’t work like that
because of the way that the criminal system is set up. And the reason for that
is if you go into court and plead guilty on the original charges before you have
a chance to explain why things happened the way they did or give an explanation
of your side of the events, then you will be convicted for that crime before you
get a chance to do that. And the judge will go ahead and sentence you and most
of the time you’ll get the standard sentence for that type of charge. And usually if you don’t have a chance to negotiate it or try to reduce the charge
or reduce the penalty, then the penalty that you finally get will be more severe
than the people who plead not guilty at first and negotiate their case or
explain their side of the story in order to get a lesser penalty. So again most of
the time, even if you’re guilty, you should not plead guilty at the first
court date until you get a chance to explain your side of the story. The one
biggest exception to that is if the thing that you were charged for, what you
actually did, was much more serious or has a much greater potential penalty
than what they charged you for. If they charge you for just part of it or
something that wasn’t quite as severe and you feel like you could have gotten
charged for more (or you’ve spoken with an attorney and and he’s told you you
could have gotten charged for something more) and that is the one exception where possibly it would make sense to plead guilty right upfront to avoid getting
the bigger charge or the more serious charges later. However that happens very
rarely and so again 99% of the time it’s a really good idea to plead not guilty
at first. Speak to an attorney. Figure out what the best strategy is for
your case and then you can accept responsibility later if you would like
to. Or there may be a defense that you can raise in court to either get you a
better deal or try to get your case dismissed.

3 comments

  1. CASE DESCRIPTION: the day following hurricane irma 9/11 /17 my home as was most of the state was with out power.having a camper trailer with its own power source 3 miles away in storage i went to go pick it up. mainly to preserve my insulin in its mini fridge and also to have a means of keeping cool by fans .having hooked up the trailer and traveling half way to my home 1 of the 2 solar panels broke free from the roof and struck the hood of a pickup truck behind me. i can only assume it broke free due to the 12 hrs of 70 to 100 mile winds the day previous and was barely hanging on.turns out the driver of the pick up was an off duty police sergeant and when the cops came to do the accident report he insisted i get a citation for an unsecured load. am i better off pleading guilty with an explanation or not guilty and prey for the judge having some compassion ?
    Thanks,

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