When Do I Actually Enter A Plea of “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”?

Last updated on October 13, 2023

At the State Level, on all Indicted Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Violations you would plead “Not Guilty” at the arraignment (a Violation is not a crime as defined under New York State Law but can be punished by up to 15 days in jail). On Unindicted Felonies, you would enter a general denial at the arraignment and would only enter in a plea of “Not Guilty” only after the matter was indicted by a Grand Jury. At the Federal Level, as to all charges you would put in your plea of ‘Not Guilty” at the Initial Appearance. In both the State and Federal Courts, pleas of “Guilty” are almost always taken later in the process. Speak with an experienced Long Island federal defense attorney to discuss the specific details of your case.

Contact the law office of Criminal Attorney Jason Bassett today at (631) 259-6060 to schedule a consultation.

What is a Plea Hearing?

A plea hearing constitutes a formal legal process in which a defendant formally addresses criminal charges levied against them. During this phase, the defendant may choose to proclaim their innocence, admit guilt, or opt for a “nolo contendere” (no contest) plea. The specific timing of this hearing can vary, depending on whether the case falls under state or federal jurisdiction.

Picture yourself in a situation where you’ve been arrested for either a misdemeanor or felony offense. It’s the responsibility of the district attorney to decide whether to file charges, initiating the legal proceedings. In misdemeanor cases, typically, the defendant enters their plea during the initial appearance, skipping the need for a preliminary hearing. Conversely, felony cases involve a more intricate process. After a preliminary hearing and arraignment, a status conference might be convened to explore the possibility of resolving the case without going to trial. If no resolution is reached, the case proceeds to the plea hearing and, potentially, a trial.

It’s crucial to differentiate between plea hearings and plea bargains as they play distinct roles within the legal system. A plea hearing is a formal court proceeding presided over by a judge, involving all relevant parties, and represents the final opportunity to settle the case before proceeding to trial. If an agreement is reached, the defendant typically enters a plea of “guilty” or “no contest.” In contrast, a plea bargain is an informal negotiation between the prosecutor and the defense, which may lead to the defendant having the option to plead guilty to a lesser charge or receive a reduced sentence. Notably, plea bargains are responsible for resolving more than 90% of cases without the necessity of a trial.

Working with a skilled attorney can help in getting a better understanding of the legal system and how plea hearings work. Consult a skilled Long Island criminal defense attorney today for more information.

Will My Attorney And I Have Access To Discovery Prior To Entering A Plea Of Guilty Or Not Guilty?

At the Federal level, in virtually all cases the attorney for the defendant will have discovery before any sort of plea negotiations are entered into. At the State Court Level, the prosecution has to provide discovery no later than 15 days after the defendant’s arraignment (although in some cases that time may be extended by 30 days with the permission of the Court). If the State Court prosecutor makes a Pre-Indictment offer requiring a plea to a crime, the prosecutor has to disclose all discovery not less than three calendar days prior to the expiration date of the offer. If it is either an indicted felony or a misdemeanor, when a prosecutor makes an offer requiring a plea to a crime, they must disclose discovery not less than 7 calendar days prior to the expiration date of the offer.

How Often Will I Need To Appear In Court During The Course Of My Case?

How often you will have to appear during the course of your case can vary pretty widely depending on the individual judge and the level of the crime charged. On an open criminal matter, there’s normally an appearance approximately once a month for both State and Federal cases. The period between court appearances can be longer or shorter depending on the specific circumstances of the case. At each court appearance, a variety of things can happen: the prosecutor and the defense attorney may negotiate matters related to the case; the prosecutor may provide discovery; future matters may be scheduled; written motion can be filed; evidentiary hearings and even a trial may result.

Should I Start Pre-Trial Voluntary Counseling For My Criminal Case on Long Island?

First and foremost, if someone feels that they need some sort of counseling then regardless of the effects on their case they should go forward with it. I have never known the decision to engage in counseling (whether it be for emotional issues or regarding substance abuse) to negatively impact a case. At worst it may have no effect on the case, but often it can convince a prosecutor to make a better plea. If someone has taken it upon themselves to seek some sort of counseling without it being required, it can often persuade a prosecutor that this is someone who is sincerely trying to change and should be given a chance.

Should I Cooperate With Law Enforcement? Does That Really Help Me With My Criminal Case?

First off, whether it be at the Federal Level or the State Level, you should only be speaking with any law enforcement authorities with your attorney involved every step of the way. It’s a very fact-specific determination whether or not you should try and work with the authorities and cooperate, either as a witness or a confidential informant. Under the right circumstances, cooperating with the authorities can be to a person’s advantage. Very often prosecutors will give a very favorable plea offer to someone who cooperates, whether that be through providing information, acting as an informant, and/or eventually testifying against someone else. If one eventually pleads guilty to a crime in Federal Court, one of the things specifically considered at sentencing is any cooperation the defendant has provided to the government. While it may be in your interest to cooperate, your attorney must first evaluate the strength of the prosecutor’s case so you can compare the likelihood of conviction and the possible sentence so you can properly judge the value of what the prosecutor is offering you.

Can My Attorney Have My Federal Or State Felony Charges Reduced To Lesser Offenses?

It is possible to have charges reduced under a variety of circumstances. I can often convince the prosecutor that the evidence isn’t sufficient to sustain the present charges. An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney like myself can often point out the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case and convince them to reduce the charges. Sometimes charges are reduced because the defense attorney has filed written motions asking the court to reduce the charges based on legal challenges. Most plea bargains include an agreement to plead guilty to reduced charges.

What happens during Arraignment?

An arraignment is the first appearance in court for anyone arrested. The arraignment does not constitute a criminal trial. During your arraignment, the prosecution will present to the judge a criminal charge sheet that will detail the charges against you. Based on the evidence collected by the police and your criminal history, the prosecutor will prepare a criminal complaint. The charges may be different from what you expect. It is important to have a New York criminal attorney at your arraignment. This is because there are important issues such as bail and your initial plea.

What happens after Arraignment?

There are many ways a criminal case could proceed after arraignment. Your New York criminal arraignment lawyer will be there to represent you throughout the process. Motions and hearings will be held if the charge is a misdemeanor. If there is no agreement to plead guilty, the case will go to trial.

If the charge is a felony, the case will be referred to a grand jury. If the grand jury indicts the defendant, there will be a Supreme Court hearing followed by a series of motions and hearings. If the defendant doesn’t plead guilty, the case will go to trial.

For more information on Whether To Plead “Guilty” Or “Not Guilty”, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (631) 259-6060 today.

Topic Description
Access to Discovery Prior to Entering a Plea Federal defense attorneys typically have pre-plea discovery. State courts require prosecution to disclose within specific timeframes, varying by circumstances.
Frequency of Court Appearances During a Case Court appearances typically occur monthly in both State and Federal cases, but frequency varies based on case specifics.
Pre-Trial Voluntary Counseling for Criminal Cases Counseling often helps and rarely harms a case. It may lead to better pleas, showing a commitment to change.
Cooperation with Law Enforcement Cooperation can benefit when done with legal counsel. It may lead to favorable plea offers for informants or witnesses.
Reduction of Federal or State Felony Charges Experienced defense attorneys can reduce charges through negotiation or by pointing out case weaknesses.
Arraignment Process Arraignment is the initial court appearance for arrestees, addressing crucial issues like bail and pleas. Legal representation is vital.
Proceedings After Arraignment Post-arraignment proceedings vary; misdemeanors involve motions and hearings, while felonies may include grand jury involvement and Supreme Court hearings.

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