Especially if this is your first real interaction with law enforcement, being charged with a crime can be a terrifying and disorienting experience. In the immediate aftermath of being cited or arrested, you may not fully understand what your rights are, what the process will play out like, and whether or not you need an attorney. In some instances, you may feel resigned to your fate and simply wish to plead guilty, even if you know that the full story has not been told. However, this is never a smart idea, as, even if you are guilty, there are ways to minimize the damage or even get your charges dismissed. This requires time, however, which an initial plea of guilty at your arraignment will not allow for. Below, our skilled Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC explain why you should always hire a lawyer even if you intend to plead guilty.
Can I Plead Guilty to a Crime in Salt Lake City without a Lawyer?
While the answer to this question is technically yes, it is never a good idea to enter a plea without first consulting with counsel, as is your legal right. The judge at your arraignment, the proceeding where you enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty, will read the charges against you and inform you of your legal rights, including the right to a lawyer to represent you in the matter. You can waive this right and choose to enter a guilty plea on your own, but, even if you are guilty, there is almost always going to be a better end to your case if you first retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC before entering any plea.
What Alternatives Can a Utah Lawyer Offer to Pleading Guilty?
Even if you are certain of your guilt and believe there is overwhelming evidence that the police can use against you, only a skilled criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC can help you determine whether there is some sort of legal technicality that could lead to your case being dismissed. For example, if the police searched your house without a warrant and located the drugs that were the basis for a drug possession charge, we can file a motion to exclude evidence based on an illegal search and seizure. If the motion is granted and that evidence made up the bulk of the prosecution’s case, there is a good chance that the prosecutor may be willing to drop the charges because they cannot prove your guilt without the evidence that is excluded.
However, even if there is no legal technicality that will get the prosecutor to dismiss the case outright, pleading guilty, at least at the initial arraignment, is still not going to be the right option most of the time. You should retain an experienced Utah attorney for a criminal arraignment, who is likely to advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty while we request all of the prosecutor’s evidence and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case You can easily change this plea to guilty later if you want.
In some cases, we will be able to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor where your charges are downgraded or dismissed. Sometimes the prosecutor’s case is not as strong as it initially appears and other times the prosecutor will be motivated to deal simply in order to save the state the time and costs of a trial. If you qualify, we may be able to convince the prosecutor to let you into a pre-trial diversion program or to enter a plea in abeyance. If you complete this program successfully or, in the case of a plea in abeyance, go for a specified period of time without getting in further trouble, your charges will be dropped and you will not have a criminal record.
Sometimes, especially for more serious crimes like homicide, outright dismissal through such a program will not be a possibility. However, we may be able to negotiate a deal for you to plead guilty to a lesser charge, like robbery being downgraded to theft. We also may be able to work out a deal where the prosecutor agrees to recommend a lenient sentence to the judge in exchange for a guilty plea.
How Can a Utah Lawyer Help If I End Up Pleading Guilty without a Plea Deal?
Even if no deal is offered, and you do not wish to fight your case at a trial, a skilled Utah lawyer for a sentencing hearing like those at Overson Law, PLLC will still be able to fight for you to avoid the most serious potential penalties. At this hearing that will occur sometime after the guilty plea is entered, the judge will decide what penalties to impose. While sometimes there are mandatory minimum sentences that a judge must hand down, many times the judge will have a great deal of discretion in deciding how to sentence you.
Our skilled attorneys know how to craft the best arguments to convince the judge that you deserve leniency in your sentencing. We will have letters of support as well as in-person witnesses in some cases who can testify to your character, and we will explain the mitigating factors that give context to your crime. We will leave no stone unturned fighting for you to get the lightest possible sentence imposed for your crime.
Before You Enter a Guilty Plea, Call Our Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation
There is usually always some way an experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC can help you achieve a better outcome in your case than simply entering a guilty plea with no concessions. We will fight first to get the charges downgraded or dismissed, and, if this is not possible, we will vigorously argue for the judge to show leniency at your sentencing hearing. For a free consultation, call us today at (801) 758-2287.