When facing a judge and answering to criminal charges, you will be asked how you plead. You have a few options in regards to how you’re going to plead, and each has a potentially huge impact on your life.
Therefore, it’s essential that you fully understand what pleas are available to you under Alabama law. As well as which criminal plea is within your best interests and will give you the best possible outcome in your case.
It’s important to remember that the plea you take will be specific to your case. You should always speak with an attorney before making this decision. You can call the office of Warren Freeman Attorney at Law on (256) 253-3169 today for advice on your case.
Types of Pleas in Alabama
The Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure explains the following pleas are available at arraignment under Rule 14:
If you plead guilty to the charges filed against you, you’re admitting to the judge that you have committed the crimes you’re being accused of.
You will typically have the opportunity to explain yourself and make a statement. You’re not allowed, however, to deny doing the crime verbally after pleading guilty.
By pleading guilty you’re giving up your rights to:
- A trial
- To be represented by a lawyer
- To call witnesses and other evidence to prove your innocence
- And, in some instances, the right to appeal the judgment
In some instances, a defendant will plead guilty after being offered a plea deal. The terms and conditions of the plea deal vary greatly depending on the individual circumstances of the case.
However, as a general rule, plea deals are used to secure a guilty verdict and save the time, expense, stress, and uncertainty of a trial.
If you plead not guilty you’re telling the judge that you did not commit the crimes you’re charged with. A judge will accept your plea, then set a date for a trial.
By pleading not guilty you give yourself time to work with an attorney and build a defense. You’re able to challenge the charges and evidence the prosecution has, and call your own witnesses to help your case.
The sentence will often be harsher when found guilty after a trial. So, one way to look at it is that you’re taking a gamble. However, if you’re innocent, you may feel although there is no other option than to plead not guilty.
Not Guilty by Reason of Mental Disease or Defect
If there is probable cause to believe the defendant is mentally ill, a criminal plea of “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect” can be entered.
After making this plea the judge will order an independent assessment to determine if the defendant is in fact mentally ill.
Can You Plead “Nolo Contendere” or “No Contest” in Alabama?
In some states, you can enter a plea of “nolo contendere”. This is a Latin phrase meaning “no contest” or “I do not wish to contend”.
Pleading nolo contendere means you’re not contesting the charges against you. It’s a way of neither admitting guilt or saying you’re not guilty. Defendants use this plea as a way to minimize the punishments they’re facing.
Under Alabama law, however, you cannot enter a plea of nolo contendere.
What Happens if You Refuse to Make a Plea?
If you refuse to plead, which you are perfectly entitled to do, then the court will enter a plea of not guilty for you.
The judge will then set the case for trial and things will move forward in the same way as if you had actually pleaded not guilty.
The judge also has the power to refuse a plea of guilty for reasons of their own discretion. If they do, they will also start the wheels in motion to set a trial.
Withdrawing a Guilty Plea
It’s not that uncommon for a defendant to plead guilty or take a plea deal, only to change their minds after they’ve had some time to think about the implications.
If that is the case, there is a procedure for withdrawing a guilty plea in Alabama. Under Rule 24 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, a defendant has to file a Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea.
You only have a 30-day window to do this after sentencing, so you have to act quickly. What happens next is going to come down to the specifics of your case.
Why You Should Work With an Attorney to Decide on a Plea
Entering a plea may seem like a straightforward decision. After all, you know if you’re guilty or not of the charges you’re facing.
However, it’s not that simple. Pleading guilty is not always in your best interests, even if you are willing to admit to the crime.
Without a defense attorney to analyze your case and look at how the prosecution is likely to proceed, you risk receiving a harsher sentence.
The same applies to pleading not guilty. It’s important to have a defense attorney look through the evidence, as working out a plea deal might be more beneficial than going through a trial.
There are a lot of factors to consider when entering a plea outside of just “guilty” or “not guilty”. Always retain the services of an experienced attorney that will fight for you and ensure you are given the lightest possible sentencing.
Contact the Office of Warren Freeman Attorney at Law Today
Making a criminal plea is not something you should do without consulting an experienced attorney. Once you make a plea, it’s very hard, if not impossible to change your mind.
With prison time, huge fines, and other penalties on the line, working with an attorney is the best way to ensure you’re making the right plea for your future.
Warren Freeman, Attorney at Law, has been representing clients in Alabama for more than 20 years. He has extensive experience handling all types of cases, and always puts the interests of clients first.
Call our office today on (256) 253-3169 to schedule your free consultation to discuss your estates and wills with Warren Freeman.