Entry of a Plea

 Entry of a Plea

The main types of pleas are: not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, and guilty. In the initial stages of a criminal case, usually at Arraignment, a defendant will be asked to enter a plea.

Most commonly, a defendant will enter a plea of not guilty to all charges. Pleading "not guilty" does not mean that a case must go to trial — it means that a defendant, at least preliminarily, contests the charges as filed and that the prosecuting attorney will be expected to prove the charges against the defendant. A "not guilty" plea is usually entered early in a case because the defense has not yet received all of the pre-trial discovery or had an opportunity to review the pre-trial discovery for exculpatory and/or mitigating evidence.

A defendant may change his plea during the course of a case; however, in order to plead guilty, a defendant must execute a written Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty and be advised of his rights and the consequences of his plea prior to pleading guilty. For all of the above reasons, it is very rare for a defendant to plead guilty at an Arraignment or an initial proceeding before the Court.

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