Why You Should Plead “Not Guilty” at Arraignment


After an arrest, an arraignment--the first court hearing--will be scheduled within 30 days or so. Once you are read the charges filed against you and the potential penalties you face, the judge will ask you to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

Although you may believe that you are guilty of the alleged crime, you shouldn’t plead guilty right away. If you plead not guilty, there are several repercussions that not only result in serious penalties, but also a permanent criminal record.

The following are several reasons why you should plead “not guilty” at arraignment:

  • You don’t have a lawyer - At the beginning of the criminal justice process, many defendants do not have legal representation, meaning they have yet to receive any adequate legal advice. You have the opportunity to hire a private criminal defense attorney or a public defender if you can’t afford the former. Keep in mind, public defenders have massive caseloads and are constantly busy, so they may not have enough time to properly evaluate your case and protect your rights.
  • You are given more time to build your defense - When you plead guilty, you lose the opportunity to discover if there are any available defenses you can use to either get your entire case dismissed or your charges reduced. When you plead not guilty, you and your lawyer have more time to review your case, analyze the strength of the evidence against you, and determine if there are any weakness in the prosecution’s case.
  • You may receive a plea deal - If you plead guilty, this plea is set in stone. In addition, the judge has the discretion to hand down the maximum penalties by law. On the other hand, if you plead not guilty, your lawyer can negotiate a favorable plea bargain on your behalf. That means you could be given a reduced charge or sentence in exchange for later pleading guilty.

If you have been arrested for a criminal offense in Charlotte, NC, contact Jetton & Meredith today at (704) 931-5535 for more information.