Pleas and Plea Alternatives
During the arraignment hearing, the judge will do multiple things: read your charges, determine if you have counsel or require court-appointed counsel, and ask how you plea to the presented charges. Of all things mentioned, entering a plea is one the most crucial decisions you’ll make during the criminal trial process. Your response to the judge’s inquiry should not be one you determine then and there, but rather one settled on after an in-depth conversation with your attorney.
The Orlando criminal defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm can make you aware of what each plea entails and serve as your legal representation throughout the ensuing court proceedings. You may require our legal services as soon as the first appearance. Get in touch with us today so that we can start constructing your criminal defense.
Pleas in Criminal Defense Cases
You can enter one of three pleas as an accused criminal: not guilty, nolo contendere, or guilty. The plea you decide to enter may be influenced by case details, any offered plea bargains, and advice from your legal counsel. However, the decision is ultimately yours, making it all the more critical for you to understand what each plea means.
Pleading not guilty means that you deny all charges presented against you. Individuals often plea not guilty in criminal cases where they believe there to be insufficient incriminating evidence and demand a public trial. It is the responsibility of the city, state, or federal government to prove your guilt in such instances.
Pleading guilty means that you admit to committing the offense or charged crime. As a result of a guilty plea, you waive your right to a trial by jury as well as the right to confront and question witnesses. You cannot enter this plea without consent from the court.
A plea of nolo contendere means that you do not wish to contest the charges against you. It does not equate to an admission of guilt, but it does subject you to the penalties of a guilty plea. This plea differs from a guilty plea as it cannot be used against you in other court proceedings. You must receive the court’s consent to enter a nolo contendere plea.
First-time offenders and those facing particular drug charges may be able to avoid entering a plea by pursuing a plea alternative. This allows you to resolve your case without a formal conviction and can even result in the charges being dropped altogether.
The State Attorney’s Office offers pretrial diversion (PTD) as a plea alternative. PTD is a diversionary program that’s commonly provided to individuals charged with their first or a nonviolent offense. With PTD, you’ll have to regularly check in with a supervising officer, refrain from criminal activity, and complete community service hours. Depending on the origins of your case, you may even have to submit to random drug tests. Your charges are dropped as a result of successful completion of the program.
Similar to PTD, pretrial intervention or PTI may require you to report to the court regularly and also submit to drug tests; however, it is offered to individuals facing more severe charges.
PTI can be offered to “Any first offender, or any person previously convicted of not more than one non violent misdemeanor, who is charged with any misdemeanor or felony of the third degree is eligible for release to the pretrial intervention program on the approval of the administrator of the program and the consent of the victim, the state attorney, and the judge who presided at the initial appearance hearing of the offender.” according to Florida Statute Section 948.08. All charges are dropped upon successful completion of the program.
Drug court is an option for those facing felony drug charges. It is a diversionary program that gives felony drug abusers the opportunity to avoid the formal criminal justice system. The program offers the evaluation, management, and placement of substance abusers into rehabilitation programs. The drug court judge is made aware of any compliance issues and can implement consequences he or she deems necessary. All charges are dropped upon successful completion of the program.
The Orlando criminal defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm can analyze the facts of your case, help you settle on a plea or make you aware of possible plea alternatives. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.