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Arraignment: How Do I Plead?


An arraignment is usually the first court hearing in a criminal case where criminal defendants are formally advised about the charges they face, their constitutional rights, and are then asked to enter a plea to the charges. In most cases, pleading "not guilty" is a good idea.

The following are several reasons why defendants initially plead “not guilty” at arraignment:

  • The prosecution must prove your case – A not-guilty plea means that the defendant must make the state prove the case against him/her. This requires the prosecution to collect the evidence against the defendant and gives the defense a chance to investigate the case, assess the evidence, and build a defense strategy.
  • The possibility of a lesser charge – If a defendant pleads guilty, the judge does not have the authority to lower the charge or to offer a deferred disposition that could ultimately lead to dismissal.
  • No legal representation – At the start of the case, most defendants do not have a lawyer on their side or received qualified legal advice. Pleading guilty means not being able to fight those charges.
  • Avoid an instant criminal record – If a defendant enters a guilty plea to a charge, he/she will have a record of a conviction of that charge.
  • Uncertain consequences – Without an attorney, defendants aren’t immediately aware of the possible consequences of conviction. Not only will there be criminal penalties, but also personal repercussions—such as loss of job or professional license—that the court might not explain.

If you have been charged with a crime in Santa Barbara, our experienced legal team at Appel & Morse can protect your rights and future at arraignment. Understand any circumstances, do not plead guilty before seeking knowledgeable legal advice.

For more information, contact us and schedule a free criminal consultation today.

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