You should talk to a Hawaii criminal defense lawyer before accepting or making any deal with the prosecution. Even if you are pleading guilty to a lesser charge, you could still go to prison, pay a fine, and potentially have a criminal conviction on your record.

Your Options When Facing Criminal Charges

If a prosecutor has brought charges against you, you have a few options:

  • Plead not guilty – You do not admit responsibility for the charges against you.
  • Plead guilty – You admit responsibility for the charges against you.
  • Plead no contest (nolo contendere) – You do not admit responsibility for the charges against you, but you will not attempt to prove your innocence.

If you plead not guilty, your case moves toward trial. If you plead guilty, you don’t get the chance to defend yourself and potentially be acquitted by a jury. Instead, your case moves directly to sentencing. You face similar consequences for pleading no contest, though it’s different than pleading guilty.

Pleading no contest against criminal charges could protect you from a civil lawsuit for the same crime.

Entering a Not Guilty Plea

A criminal defense attorney would probably recommend that you enter a not guilty plea during your arraignment.

There are several reasons you want to plead not guilty from the beginning:

  • You may not have a lawyer yet. You should always hire a criminal defense attorney to review your case carefully.
  • You have a chance to defend yourself.
  • You could be acquitted of all charges and avoid incarceration, fines, and a criminal record.
  • However, you leave open the possibility of accepting a plea bargain.
  • You have the option of changing your plea at a later stage.

Your lawyer will review the strength of the prosecution’s case against you. A prosecutor will make it seem like they have the strongest case in the world. They could be bluffing. Through discovery, a criminal defense lawyer can review the facts and evidence to measure your likelihood of getting the charges dropped or winning at trial.

Consider Your Plea Options

A plea agreement is not always a bargain. Instead, it’s a deal you make with a prosecutor to plead guilty for a specific sentence, which is usually more lenient than the possible maximum sentence.

Depending on the evidence against you, the prosecutor might have a strong case. At that point, you’re unlikely to win at trial. So it’s up to you whether to try to win an acquittal or to change your plea.

What is Negotiable in a Plea Bargain?

There are several factors your defense attorney and the prosecutor can negotiate, including:

  • The number and level of charges against you
  • The facts you admit to
  • Length of time in jail or prison
  • Length of probation
  • Probation conditions
  • Electronic monitoring
  • Home arrest

Many defendants don’t realize all the factors they can negotiate during a plea. So this could be an opportunity to get a charge dropped or reduced.

A prosecutor may want something from you other than pleading guilty. For example, the prosecutor might ask you to inform someone else. This opportunity often comes up for individuals facing drug charges. You should always discuss the consequences of giving the police information with an attorney.

Let an Attorney Negotiate for You

Some defendants make the mistake of trying to negotiate a plea with the prosecutor themselves. This is not a good idea. You most likely don’t have the legal knowledge or experience to understand your options without a lawyer’s input. It’s always better to get a defense attorney’s insight and negotiation skills on your side.

A Plea is Your Choice, Not Your Lawyer’s

Your lawyer can explain the pros and cons of accepting a plea bargain versus going forward with a trial. However, your attorney can’t decide what to do in your case. The decision to accept a plea or go to trial is your choice.

Facing Charges? Call Us

If you or a loved one are facing charges in or around Honolulu and are considering a plea bargain, call Michael Fayard, Criminal Defense Attorney, at (808) 445-6708 for a free initial case consultation.