Pleading Guilty? Know Your Rights

Posted on by Thomas Carley
Vancouver WA Criminal Defense Attorney
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pleading Guilty? Know Your Rights

Everyone has heard of the phrase “innocent until proven guilty.” But what exactly does this mean? And why is this so important to understand? This article will unpack that very important phrase.

For many people, a criminal charge is a very new and foreign experience. You may be wondering how to put your best foot forward.

One thing is for certain – having an attorney in your corner helps. A good criminal defense attorney knows how to examine the police reports and interview witnesses in your case. Once the attorney has investigated your case, he or she will advise you about all of your options.

So what are my options? Depending on the evidence in your case, your attorney may advise you that trial would be a good option. At a trial, you assert your innocence to the charge(s). You have the ability to cross-examine the prosecutor’s witnesses including the police. Additionally, you can call your own witnesses to testify on your behalf. As the defendant, you have the option to testify or to remain silent. The jury’s role is to evaluate all of the evidence in your case. The jury decides the ultimate question of voting “not guilty” or “guilty.” Trial can be a very attractive option in many cases. However, your lawyer might not recommend trial in every case. What happens if you do not want to go to trial or if your attorney does not recommend trial?

In many cases such as DUI, Assault, Domestic Violence, or felony drug charges, your attorney may push the prosecutor to negotiate for reduced charges. In other cases, sometimes there may be rehabilitative programs available where you could eventually get your case dismissed. Every case is different, so it is best to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. A good lawyer can craft a creative resolution for your benefit.

If your lawyer is able to negotiate a resolution that involves you pleading guilty to something, your rights will inevitably come up. Before deciding that pleading guilty to the charge (or to a reduced charge) is the smartest option for you, it is important to understand your rights.

  • You have the right to go to trial.
  • If you go to trial, you have a right to remain silent and nobody can force you to testify.
  • You have the right to cross-examine the prosecutor’s witnesses and challenge their evidence.
  • You have the right to bring your own witnesses to testify on your behalf at no expense to you.
  • You are presumed innocent until proven guilty either at trial or through a guilty plea.
  • If you go to trial and lose, you could appeal your case to a higher court.

When you plead guilty, you give up these rights. Knowing that you forfeit many important rights when pleading guilty, why would you want to plead guilty to something?

Often times, it is to your advantage to accept plea bargain. There are many reasons for taking a plea bargain. Sometimes your attorney is able to negotiate for a reduced charge carrying fewer penalties than the original charge. Sometimes your lawyer is able to negotiate for no jail time, no license suspension, more lenient probation conditions, and reduced court costs. Sometimes prosecutors will agree to dismiss some charges if you plead guilty to other charges. Sometimes there are immigration consequences associated with particular charges, and your lawyer can negotiate the case to a different charge. There are a multitude of reasons why pleading guilty may be to your advantage.

Every case is different. Having a lawyer in your corner will help make your case go smoothly and favorably. Your lawyer’s job is to present a zealous defense, to review the evidence and to challenge the prosecution’s case, and to explain to you all of your options as well as the pros and cons of each option.

Vancouver WA Criminal Defense Lawyer

Vancouver WA criminal defense attorney Tom Carley has practiced criminal defense in the Clark County, Cowlitz County, Battle Ground and Skamania County courts for many years. He understands the intricacies of a criminal case, and takes the time to sit down with you and understand your goals and concerns. He handcrafts a tailored plan of action for each client to ensure that you will get the best possible outcome. Tom takes pride in client communication so that if you ever need an advocate, he is a quick call away. If you need an expert lawyer, contact us today for a free case review.

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