Yes, of course! It’s not a lie when you plead “not guilty” during an arraignment. An arraignment is usually the first hearing in court in front of a judge where a defendant makes a plea of “not guilty” or “guilty.” In fact, if it makes you feel better, change the words “not guilty” to mean, “I want to preserve my rights.”
99% of the time you would plead not guilty. This does not mean you’re innocent. It simply tells the court that you want to reserve your rights to a fair trial, to hear the evidence against you, to see and question the witnesses testifying against you and to present your defense, should you choose.
So, don’t worry about seeming like a liar by pleading not guilty. This is how the system works. You can always change your plea to guilty upon receiving a better offer from the district attorney. But going from guilty to not guilty is a bit more challenging.
If you chose to plead guilty, it would be over. There would be no trial. You’d give up your rights to hear evidence against you and your rights to cross examine witnesses who testify against you. Basically, you tell the judge to go ahead and dish out the sentence (punishment), because you have done what the police and district attorney have accused you.
Of course you could change your mind before conviction, but why risk going that far? It becomes virtually impossible after conviction. (This will be discussed during another blog.)
When you plead guilty, you are at the mercy of the court for a lenient sentence. Sometimes the court will give lenient sentences when someone refuses go through a trial, but that is not the best way of going about defending yourself.
It’s imperative that every piece of evidence and testimony against you is carefully examined. Further, it’s very important that the police report is carefully analyzed to see if any of your rights have been violated. Even further, the police may have had the wrong facts and you may be falsely accused.
One should NEVER readily plead “guilty” to any charge(s) without first consulting an attorney. Even if you are not innocent, it does not mean the government (police and District Attorney) could violate your Constitutional rights.
The judges, DA and court personnel know pleas are changed routinely. It’s best to preserve your right to a trial because you can always change your plea to guilty–I’ve never seen a guilty plea rejected.
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