If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense in Ohio, the first court hearing you must attend is called arraignment. During the arraignment, the judge explains the charges against you, the potential penalties you face if convicted, your right to an attorney and jury trial, your presumption of innocence, and the state’s burden of proof.
Once the judge reads and explains your charges, you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Most defendants plead not guilty at arraignment, even if they believe they are guilty of the alleged crime.
The following are the reasons why you should plead not guilty:
- You don’t have a lawyer – At the beginning of each criminal case, many defendants do not have an attorney representing them during the arraignment. In addition, they may have never obtained any legal advice. When you plead not guilty, you are forcing the prosecution to prove their case. Throughout the legal process, your lawyer can protect your rights, reputation, and future.
- Explore all potential options – Pleading not guilty gives you time for your attorney to review your case and determine all potential defenses that may apply to your case. If your lawyer discovers your rights were violated during the criminal investigation, he/she may be able to file a motion to suppress key evidence from being used against you at trial. If you plead guilty, you lose the opportunity to defend yourself.
- Plea bargaining available – Pleading guilty can also lead to being sentenced to the maximum penalties according to state law. This could mean years in prison and a permanent criminal record that could haunt you for the rest of your life. Even if there is strong evidence against you, going to trial may not be the prosecution’s best interests since it is a costly and time-consuming process. If you plead not guilty, your lawyer can potentially reach a plea agreement. In return for pleading guilty, you could have your charges reduced or receive a lighter sentence.
For more information about our legal services in Cleveland, contact Patituce & Associates at (440) 471-7784 today and request a free consultation.